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"Imitate me!" (Seriously? YOU?)

Monthly theme: Identity

Reading time: two minutes

You’re an example for others to follow. It comes with the territory. Paul wrote those under his shepherding care on numerous occasions, “Imitate me,” or “Follow my example.”

How does that grab you?

It kind of sounds pretentious. It’s certainly humbling.

Maybe humiliating is more like it.

We’ve been thinking this month about your identity as a leader in the church. It’s dangerous territory. The danger comes in the temptation to believe that you’ve got this all figured out.

So how do me manage the paradox of, on the one hand, saying, “Follow my example,” and on the other hand knowing full well, “I’m just another wandering sheep of the flock”?

Let’s wrestle with this one, because it’s really important.

One the one hand… (stick with me on this; we’ll get to the other hand.)

On the one hand, deal with it. It comes with the territory. Your calling is to model the baptismal lifestyle described in Romans 6. You’ve been crucified to the passions and lusts of the flesh. By the power of the Spirit, you’ve put sin to death and you live the life of Christ, no longer a slave to sin.

That’s how shepherds lead their flocks. They set the example and call the flock to imitate them.

It’s what you do, even knowing full well how often sin takes hold of you and you wander yourself. Hmmm.

Growing up in Oregon, we kept sheep, and the sheep kept the weeds down. When we could keep them inside the fence, that is.

My mother was usually the first to notice, and she’d yell for my brothers and I, “Boys! The sheep are out… again!”

We’d yell, we’d chase them with sticks, we’d throw things. Sometimes it worked and we’d get them back inside the fence, but mostly they were really good at wandering.

Just like you are.

But one thing about those sheep: they knew their shepherd’s voice. When my dad got home, he’d call his little lambs by name, and they’d run right to him. He’d open the gate and lead them in where they belonged.

Agreed, you’re not a perfect example to follow. On the other hand…

You know your Shepherd’s voice. When he calls, you know where to go. And your brothers and sisters in the flock follow your example.

And there under the protecting, forgiving, nurturing care of the Good Shepherd, you find peace.

It’s a paradox of leadership in the Church: the sheep that wanders is called to be a shepherd, a shepherd that hears the voice of his own Shepherd and comes quickly at the sound of his call.

You’re the example to follow. “Let us then confess our sins…”

Lead on!

Thanks for reading.