To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:1-6
What would your dream church look like?
Does this describe your perfect church?
If so, do you realize that this perfect church is all about you?
Don’t get me wrong. That’s true to a certain extent. Church is a lot about you. You and your relationship with God. But think about it, if church was all about you…tailored to your likes, your interests, your preferences in every way, shape and form--- how many people do you think would come…
In today’s lesson, Peter tells us that we are not alone. We don’t attend a church as a PERSON of God, but as PEOPLE of God. And as People of God, we are in this TOGETHER.
I. Notes about Caring for Others
Take a look at Peter’s words in 5:1-4. These describe how important it is to care for each other. Peter writes, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Caring for others was so important to do that already at the time 1 Peter was written—twenty some years after Jesus ascended into heaven – there was a special position in churches that involved doing just that: Caring for others. Here it is called “an elder.” The word means more than just being physically mature or older. It refers to one who is spiritually mature who is asked to care for the spiritual health of others.
At Gethsemane, we still have that position. We have a group of men specifically tasked with caring for the spiritual well being of the congregation’s member.
Does that mean if you aren’t a pastor or an elder that this section doesn’t have anything to say to you?
Not so much.
Because this section talks to people who have been tasked with caring for others, it therefore has principles that apply to anyone who has been tasked with caring for others. It speaks to members of the ladies group who care for each other. It speaks to parents who lead their children. It speaks to husbands who care for their wives and wives who care for their husbands. It speaks to Christians who care about their friends…friends who care for those they serve cookies with, and congregation members who care for others who sit in their row!
In other word, If you are a Christian, you have been called to care for other Christians!
Peter knew this was especially important for the church during times of persecution. That’s why he notes in verse 1, “I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings…”
Peter had truly witnessed Christ’s sufferings. He saw Jesus arrested. He saw him on trial. He saw him battered and beaten. He saw him crucified. And Peter saw what this persecution did for Jesus’ followers. They fled. They betrayed him. They denied knowing him. They hid away in fear.
Since the church at Peter’s time would be undergoing very similar persecutions (remember what we talked about last week), Peter knew the same struggles of doubt, fear, and denial would be facing those Christians.
In the same way, our flock facing struggles. Temptations to sin, temptations to doubt, persecutions at work, on the internet, in the media. Therefore, it is imperative that we listen to Peter’s solution: Be shepherds of God’s flock under your care.
Ever notice the difference in caring for your own stuff versus caring for someone else’s stuff. For instance, if you spill some ketchup on your shirt, you might think, “No big deal. I have more at home." I might dab at it a bit, but you don’t stress over it.
But if you are borrowing someone else’s shirt, how does that change? Suddenly, you run to the bathroom and use the entire soap dispenser’s worth of liquid soap to get the stain out. IT’S NOT YOUR SHIRT! You go to the store and pay for a couple of Tide sticks. You pray that the stain will come out, because it’s not your shirt!
The group of people that have been placed into our congregational lives? It isn’t our congregation. It isn’t Gethsemane’s congregation. It’s God’s congregation.
Think about what that means for pastors – this isn’t my people, but God’s people. It isn’t People of Kiecker, but people of God! Same thing goes for the elders. It isn’t: “This person is under my care, but not that person…I don’t have time to pray for them,” But this person is God’s person and I’ll remember them in my prayers. Even Sunday School teachers: “This is God’s child. He’s entrusted me to serve them the best I am able. I will care for their souls…” For all of us, it says, “I will encourage this person for God’s sake, not for my own sake!”
Keeping our mind on this truth will help guards us against three pitfalls that come in while caring for others:
1. Pitfall of Begrudging.
Peter warns against begrudging in verse 3, "Not because you must, but because you want to." This is an easy trap to fall into. It's so easy as a pastor to say, "I have to do this it's my job. Ugh. That person doesn't even like me that much and I'm not that fond of talking to them. Time to get it over with."
It's just as easy for the Christian laymen to fall into. “God just isn’t fair. I have no desire to talk to others. I have no desire to dampen my Sunday morning listening to another person complain. I just want to get to my pew, sing my favorite songs, and leave. I don’t want to leave my comfort zone, so if God wants me to talk, He’s being unfair!”
Let’s get this straight. I’m not going to grab you by the hand as I usher you out and walk you to a sister’s row in back, introduce you, and then stand there with my arms crossed glaring at you until you make that person feel encouraged.
But I will remind you of what Jesus did for you. How he went totally out of his comfort zone. Actually, how he went out of anyone’s comfort zone. He allowed nails to be driven into his hands and his feet in order to take away your sins.
Jesus suffered in order to care for you—spiritually and eternally.
Don’t care for others, “because you must but because you want to.” Because you want to serve your awesome Savior and because you want to serve others with the message of your awesome Savior.
2. Pitfall of Greed.
Still in verse 3 Peter touches on this. He writes, "Shepherd others...not greedy, but with eagerness."
Of course, this speaks to pastors and elders as a reminder not to serve others in hopes that “we’ll keep enough people in church to pay the bills for September…” It also speaks to the awful attitude of the pastor who says, “I really need to pump up my numbers in hopes that they’ll give more offerings and I’ll get more money!” Terrible. To all in such positions watch out for greed!
But what does it say to you as an unpaid church volunteer?
Well, greed might get in the way again, “This isn’t my job! Who cares if ‘so-and-so’ has been missing from church! Who cares, if 'so-and-so' had a bad week. It isn’t up to me to email them an encouragement. I’m too busy with my own job to spend a lunch break calling a church friend of mine.”
You’re right. There isn’t any reward check for $100 given to the lay person who does the most ministry in the next week. There isn’t even a “church member of the month” pin.
But there is our Savior. Our Savior who wasn’t paid anything but suffering and death for saving you!
Don’t serve because of greed, but because you are eager. Eager to tell others about the free gift of salvation in Christ. Eager to live in peace knowing that salvation has already been paid for by Christ.
3. Pitfall of Pride
THIRD, Peter warns of pride. He writes, “Don’t lord it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
This is another easy pitfall. To get to thinking, “I’m the church going one. I help all of the time. I make sure to invite people to church like pastor says. I forward on emails like pastor says. I help get the church ready for Sunday like pastor says. In fact, when you think about it, just about every person who comes to church or comes back to church is really a badge of honor for me!”
A badge of honor for you? Really?
You aren’t even a badge of honor for you.
Remember the Bible says, “We were dead in our sins and the uncircumcision of our sinful nature.” We were gross. We were awful. There is nothing anyone of us could do to earn our own salvation or impress God with our faith!
It is Jesus who died for us. God who called us. The Holy Spirit who brought us to faith! We are God’s badge of honor.
The same is true for all whom he uses us to bring to faith. The same is true for all whom we care for. They too are blood bought sons and daughters of God. They too are loved by him. They too are being called to him!
Don’t care for others just to feel important, but because they need an example. An example of love. An example of humility. An example of one who knows how important it is to go to church and who reflects on his Word week after week.
They’ll see you. They’ll follow suit. And God will have used you to draw them closer to Him.
So what’s in it for you? It isn’t pride. It isn’t money. It isn’t recognition. It lasts much longer:
Peter writes, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” A crown of life. Heaven. A gift readied for you by your chief shepherd. A place of quiet waters. A place to drink from the river of life. A place where you will lie down in the eternal pastures of God’s love.
Don’t serve others to earn a gift. To earn anything. But care for others because God cared for you!
II. Notes about Being Cared for by Others
Of course, throughout your time in this church there may be times when you are not caring for others, but you need to be cared for by others. Meaning: Others might rebuke you. Others might pray for you. Others might call you on the phone to say, “Hey! I haven’t seen you in church for awhile? I’m concerned about you.”
How then do you react when you are being cared for? How do you react when you are being shepherded?
Well, here’s what our sinful nature would have us do: HANG UP. Ignore them. Tell them to “buzz off.” Harden our hearts and resolve even more to continue doing whatever sin we’re doing and to continue to stay away from church.
Of course, our sinful nature wants us away from church! It’s there where it is confronted with God’s Law. It is there where it is reminded of it’s ugliness. It is there where God’s Gospel empowers you to rid yourself of this ugly lifestyle.
So, instead of getting mad at whomever approaches you to rebuke you, Peter tells us to be submissive. He says, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.” Listen. Respect them. Take it to heart. Check God’s Word to see if what they say is found in God’s Word. And if what that person is telling you is also found in God’s Word? Then listen.
And if you don’t…
Then, it is important to note who you are ignoring. It isn’t your pastor. It isn’t your elder. It isn’t your church friends.
Don’t let pride get in the way of you being cared for!
I went to the dentist this past week. She told me I needed to floss more. (Ever happened to you?) The interesting thing is that as she said this (and as this has happened in the past) I started to think, “Don’t judge me! I don’t have time to floss. I brush twice a day with a very minty tasting toothpaste. Leave me alone. I’m fine.”
How foolish! Especially when I am getting a root canal.
Don’t let pride get in the way of you being cared for! Not in the area of tooth decay, but also in the area of soul decay. When someone comes to you to tell you to get back to church, take them to heart! When someone tells you to rid your life of sin, rid your life of sin!
And stay calm. This is accomplished by doing what Peter commands in verse 5, “Clothe yourself with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."
This is nothing more than the Gospel. God lifts up the humble. To those who humble themselves and say, “I am a sinner.” God lifts up. To those who humble selves and say, “I need help.” God lifts up. To those who humbles themselves and say, “I’ve been a Christian all my life, but lately I’ve failed miserably. I’ve struggled with sin. I’ve fallen into the pit of repeated sin. I am in despair. God forgive me!”
God lifts up. He forgives. He restores.
The picture of a perfect church changes, doesn’t it? It isn’t all about you anymore.
The perfect church. It isn't about you. It isn’t all about me. It isn’t all about others.
It’s about us.
Us and God.
Us and love.
Us and being together...until we are together forever with Jesus. Amen.