“Do as I say, not as I do.” This is often the mantra of parents everywhere. They want their children to grow up well, but they know that they are not perfect. So when they make a mistake, they tell their children, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Jesus was not like that. He was the ultimate example, and he fully expected his disciples to follow in it. In the book of John, he explained that he was the Good Shepherd, and that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Throughout the Gospels he demonstrated his compassion and love for people who didn’t deserve compassion or love. He cared so much that he died for his people.
In 1st John, this was applied to us. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (3:16). We, too, should be shepherd who care for our people. We should be compassionate and loving to those who don’t deserve compassion and love. We should care so much for those around us that we would lay down our lives for them.
In all likelihood, will we have to die as Jesus did? No. However, there is more than one way to lay down our lives. Let’s go back to the example of parents. My parents put many things aside when my brother and I were born. They spent a lot of money, time, and energy on us, even when we were misbehaving. They cared about us despite the fact that we threw that care back in their faces sometimes. They were shepherds, caring for their wayward sheep.
That’s the kind of shepherd we are called to be. We are called to give up our money, time, and energy when necessary in order to be there for the people who need us. We are called to guide others to our Good Shepherd. It won’t always be fun, and it probably won’t be easy, but it will be worth it – and we can rest assured that when shepherding wears us down, we can go back to our Good Shepherd and find rest.