In a technical sense, our Shepherd owns us. But probably not in the way that we are accustomed to the term. He does not view us as property, to be used and disposed of according to his whims. He has indeed bought us with his blood, but not on a trial basis in which we are judged according to our productivity. There is no money-back guarantee to protects him from purchasing defective goods.

Actually, we were all defective when he paid for us, as he well knew. But the potential he saw – the joy set before him – was not in procuring an army of minions that could produce that which would bring him glory. No, what he saw underneath all our brokenness, our waywardness, our sinfulness, was the image of the Father in which we were created. An image that gives us the potential for relationship with himself and with his Father.

It is a potential that absolutely will be realized. God is at work within his people, to will and to do according to his good pleasure, and it is his pleasure to conform us to the image of our Savior, with an equivalent capacity to enjoy the eternal life which the Trinity enjoys. The work which God has begun, he will finish.

All of this is part of the paradigm that informs our behavior as co-workers with Christ. As he manifests himself through us, our shepherding will look like his, and we will treat people accordingly.

Next week we’ll begin to unpack some of the practicalities of that paradigm.