No metaphor is perfect, but God has chosen to use the concept of shepherds and sheep as a primary way of describing Jesus’ relationship with us. I want to explore the application and ramifications of that metaphor in the realm of missionary care.
The foundational principle – the concept upon which all activity is to be based – is this: doing flows out of being.
Jesus said that the words which come out of our mouths are expressions of what is in our hearts. The corollary would be that our actions are an expression of our character. Good shepherding practices flow out of a heart that is oriented toward the sheep, for their benefit.
This is more difficult and more complicated than I have stated. We do not always know our true motives, and even when we generally know them to be pure, we don’t always manifest them specifically in purity. If our shepherding work was simply the outworking of our own hearts, the sheep would be in sorry shape!
The Great Shepherd resides in his under-shepherds. He manifests his own heart through those who work with him in caring for his flock. The essence of our being is firmly rooted in him, thus our doing can be a re-presentation of the Shepherd’s character of care. The sheep will always benefit from that.