The Christian life is focused on heaven but lived out on earth. On one hand we recognize that heaven is our home and view everything from that standpoint. The first verse of the final chapter in 1 Peter looks ahead to the time when we will “share in the glory to be revealed.” Then immediately, in verse 2, our attention is drawn to the role we are to play here on earth: We are to be “shepherds of God’s flock.” It’s one thing to develop a heavenly perspective and another to carry out those responsibilities here on earth. Either one without the other is a recipe for failure.
It is important to remember (especially for those providing leadership in the local congregation) that it is “God’s flock.” It belongs to Him, not to us. We (referring primarily to pastors, elders, teachers) are simply those given the responsibility to guide and help. Each group of believers who along with Peter acknowledge that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, was in fact the promised Messiah, are part of that church. Imperfect as it is, not even the “gates of Hades” can overcome it (cf. Matt. 16:18). Why? Because it is God’s flock, built by Him for His pleasure. He’s been at work on the task ever since he spoke those words to Peter some two thousand years ago. It is His flock.
Every one who has worked with sheep is aware that they need to be protected. I remember early days on a farm when one day I found a sheep caught on its back in a rut. It was absolutely unable to regain a standing position. Sheep need protection. Christian literature is filled with books, articles and sermons on believers as sheep. The imagery is not meant to discredit the Christian but to point out the many similarities that exist. Even Jesus was “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).
I like the translations that bring out the fact that God “has entrusted” to us his flock. The NLT is especially good: “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you.” The needs of congregation is the charge that he has assigned to us. When we go about the various tasks that this involves it is good to reflect on the fact that God himself – eternal, omnipotent, infinitely gracious – is the one who has put that specific act of caring in our hands. No wonder that it is to be done “willingly” rather than “because [we] must.” Think for the moment of the One who has given us the honor of serving him in this way. Whatever menial task a God like this assigns immediately becomes meaningful.