By Andy Smith

If you’ve been in a church–any church–for more than about fifteen minutes, you’ve probably heard something about a shepherd. It’s a popular metaphor among Christians, and for good reason–it’s a comforting image: protection and provision.

Scripture contains other such word pictures: the chick with her hens, the parent with the child, the rain which sustains plant life.

But, as the Danish Lutheran pastor Soren Kierkegaard reminds us, our faith in Jesus is not only supposed to be a comfort; it is a challenge as well.

Jesus is not only supposed to be a comfort; it is a challenge as well.

Guest preacher John Reusch put it this way: sometimes, instead of following Jesus, we want Jesus to follow us. We are tempted to make the “Good Shepherd” into a “Wimpy Shepherd.” We want to stay in our comfort zone and have God bless us there. We want God to follow our lead!

The Good Shepherd MainThe stronger aspects of the Good Shepherd only emerge if we are willing to move out of our comfort zone with Jesus. That’s not easy. He is willing to offend us if our self-contentment needs to be shattered. And quite often, it does.

It is Christ’s strength that unites the church: there is an amazing diversity among Christians around the world, but it is Jesus and His Word which form the common denominator. If we nudge Jesus to the side, and don’t let Him be the center, we lose everything meaningful and everything powerful about our faith.

If we nudge Jesus to the side, and don’t let Him be the center, we lose everything meaningful and everything powerful about our faith.

It is our task to present a clear and consistent image of Jesus to the world. We worship and make known a living Messiah; He has risen from the dead. Pastor Reusch crystalized it: “Dead shepherds are useless.” Jesus is alive!

Jesus had little interest in placating the self-satisfaction of those who considered themselves to be good and holy. He sought the company of prostitutes and outcasts, those who felt their brokenness.

Jesus is willing to look me in the eye and tell me that I’m a sinner–totally shattering my self righteousness.   But–and it’s a big distinction– then He  tells me that sinners will live eternally with Him!

Because He is a tough Shepherd, but more importantly, He is a good Shepherd.