From what I hear occasionally, it’s clear that some are trapped in religion.
Religion alone is focused on self. It teaches someone how to try and be a better person. Religion promises if you do this, you get that. Religion is veiled from seeing God, because it focuses on me.
If someone is doing things because they believe they will receive a reward in heaven, aren’t they just feigning kindness towards others so they can get something for themselves? Isn’t this what a hired hand looks like? Someone that wants to tally up a score of souls and crowns for themselves and for their own glory, earning religious converts and numbers, but who isn’t concerned about the sheep and their health and their growth except for where it is profitable or honoring to themselves?
But how can I know someone’s heart or their motives? Sometimes exalting one another is used as a poor substitute for loving one another. We do not honor anyone by empty flattery – we honor others through love and encouragement and service and yes, through accountability.
If we care for the sheep, if we love them, we want them to escape the traps of temptation and sin in their lives. A hired hand will count every four legged animal as a sheep, hoping that he will get paid by the head for his “great work”, while providing little protection to prevent them from wandering into traps and death. A hired hand will stand proudly within the midst of his “great number” of animals, proud of the number of heads, not concerned that there are wolves and goats amongst his flock, and ignoring those that have wandered away into trouble – expecting them to find their way back to safety on their own.
But the good shepherd, He loves and protects those that are His. And if even one stumbles and falls into harms way, He will seek out that one lost lamb to bring him back into the flock. He doesn’t do it expecting reward for himself, He does it because He loves the sheep. He values their lives.
Yes, so it isn’t about personal reward, it is about love. He has sought us out and saved us. He tells us to love and follow in His example.
Do I find myself acting more like a hired hand when it comes to loving others? Especially when it comes to those that are hard to love at times?
How hard must it be for God to love me at my worst?
Teach us to be like you, teacher Christ Jesus. Teach us to love. Not so that we would receive any reward or honor, but so that your name might be honored by our renewed life, alive in Christ, the Good Shepherd who lives in us and through us.
Lead us into your green pastures, to be fed in your presence.