Peter said, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy over money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock.”
God asks us to be humble, to be shepherds, to love our neighbors. What does that mean to us today? What do you suppose God would expect of us in such a rich, self-indulgent society? Weíve become accustomed to never being hungry, never being cold, never being truly inconvenienced. If something threatens us, we cage it or kill it. We have become rulers over our homes, our property, our time and our money. What is left for us to shepherd?
Life: not only our lives, and the lives of our neighbors’ but also the lives of things and creatures that do not have free will. The most innocent lives who don’t make choices, but are given to us to shepherd and care for. As shepherds, we must learn to share what we have, to serve, not to rule. Civilization has brought us indulgence instead of humility.
My city killed 22,000 cats and dogs last year. A ministry group from my church volunteers for a no-kill shelter that services over 500 animals that society has thrown away. Dogs that have chewed a favorite shoe or soiled new carpet. Cats that have scratched up a couch or have simply become too much trouble.
Our lives are so busy, the TV is loud and weíre expected at a friend’s for dinner. No time to worry about our free will. No time to listen to Godís voice inside our heart or to look for the face of God in the eyes of a puppy. No time to be a shepherd over those wandering sheep.
I think our real challenge today is to find a way to leave more than we take. Care for what God has given us and take responsibility for what we do not, and cannot own. God gave us things to help us survive and to learn to love. The kitten chasing a string, a puppy sneaking up on its sibling, a tulip standing in the spring wind. There must be a God, because these things serve no purpose except to remind us there is love and a God that gave it to us.
What have you done with your free will today? Give something back. Spay or neuter your pet, your family’s pet and your neighbor’s pet. Give a shelter dog a home. Volunteer at your local shelter or spay and neuter clinic.
Robin Herman serves as the animal ministry leader at Jesus MCC in Indianapolis, Ind.