You may have seen the famous Youtube video of a sheep attacking his shepherd. A tourist in a foreign country, filming via dash cam, rounds a curve and stops as he sees a flock of sheep and a female shepherd in the road. Spooked, the sheep stampede. The largest one takes advantage of the chaos and rams the shepherd from behind, knocking her to the tarmac. He continues violently attacking her until the tourist finally pulls up and scares the animal away, saving the poor lady from further brutality.
The lesson: don’t attack your spiritual shepherds!
The Bible describes elders as shepherds of God’s flock (Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 5:2). We must submit to them in humility and honor (1 Pet. 5:3; Heb. 13:17). Unfortunately, elders often get pummeled by the very sheep they’re trying to help.
Consider three characteristics of the rogue sheep as a warning to us:
1. He was big and strong.
This represents influential, strong-willed brethren who overshadow the less outspoken members of the congregation and may even overpower the leaders. If this describes you, pay special attention to Paul’s admonition: “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (Php. 4:5).
2. He viewed his shepherd as a threat.
Some brethren view their elders the same way. They resent their authority and envy their leadership. This jockeying of power invariably leads to conflict. Brethren, we must never forget that our shepherds care deeply for us. Their singular goal, their central purpose as overseers, is our salvation. Therefore, view them as helpers and friends, not as enemies.
3. He hit from behind.
So often, those who attack elders don’t fight fair. They blindside them with low blows by spreading gossip, criticizing insignificant shortcomings, and making unfounded accusations. If you have a legitimate concern with your shepherds, speak with them in person with an attitude of gentleness and respect (cf. 2 Tim. 2:25).
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).