How to Love Stinky Sheep

John Stott:

This is a splendid Trinitarian truth about the church, namely that it belongs to God the Father, has been redeemed by blood of Christ his Son, and has overseers appointed by God the Holy Spirit.

This fact should humble us. Although we may be privileged to be church leaders, yet it is not our church; it is God’s. We have no proprietary rights over it. It may be appropriate for kings and queens to refer to ‘my people,’ but I doubt if it is ever appropriate for pastors to refer to ‘my church….’

This truth should not only humble but also inspire us, and especially motivate us to the urlloving care of God’s people. We need this incentive, for sheep are not at all the clean and cuddly creatures they look from a distance. On the contrary, they are dirty and subject to nasty pests. They need to be regularly dipped in strong chemicals to rid them of lice, ticks and worms. They are also unintelligent and obstinate. I hesitate to apply the metaphor too literally, or describe the people of God as ‘dirty, lousy and stupid!’ But some church members can be a great trial to their pastors, and vice versa.

So how shall we persevere in loving the unlovable? Only, I think, by remembering how precious they are. They are so valuable that the three persons of the Trinity are together involved in caring for them.

I find it very challenging, when trying to help a difficult person, to say under my breath: ‘How precious you are in God’s sight! God the Father loves you. Christ died for you. The Holy Spirit has appointed me your pastor. As the three persons of the Trinity are committed to your welfare, it is a privilege for me to serve you.’

(The Living Church, pp. 83-84, line breaks mine.)

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