Reward: Shepherding broken lives in a broken world

August 4th, 2014

Care for “the least of these.” Who are “the least of these”? Racism, classism, genderism, and other “isms” intrude on all people’s lives, so I am called to offer pastoral care not only behind office doors but also on the streets of the community.

My pastoral care can be best summed up as shepherding that extends beyond individuals’ anguish and pain in order to embrace an entire community. As a shepherd, my role is to hear and give voice to grief and sorrow but also joy and celebration. Shepherding is allowing space for a community to express anger yet hear a prophetic word full of hope. It means coordinating a march against injustice for people of all ethnicities, hosting a prayer breakfast to pray away disappointment and fear, and preaching a message of nonviolence to a congregation grieving the loss of a pregnant mother taken by gun violence.

Shepherding is comforting a mother who sits beside my desk, tears streaming down her face while searching for answers, because she cannot accept the fact that her son has been sentenced for a crime. Another young woman, with sadness and weariness in her eyes, shares why she attempted to take her life. A week later, a young man with a felony conviction asks for prayer as he attempts yet again to get a job so he can care for his family. A community reels on the edge from a verdict of a man accused of killing a teenager for a bag of Skittles and a bottle of tea. Mass-incarceration, unemployment, violence, concerns about education and healthcare—this is the brokenness that beckons a shepherd to lead and love.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me” (John 10:14 CEB). Pastors are shepherds because we follow the example of the good shepherd, and our task is to lead others to Christ by doing justice and walking humbly with our God in our communities. Whenever we go to the prison, visit the sick, feed the hungry, or lead someone to self-sufficiency, we serve the “least of these,” and “when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me” (Matt 25:40 CEB).

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