1 Peter 5:2 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;
Peter addresses leaders of the church and he exhorts them to serve willingly and not under constraint. This exhortation is incredibly insightful on several levels, and I believe that it holds the key to successful ministry and leadership.
First, Peter does not want the Christian to serve out of a sense of duty. Duty is a beautiful thing and when we see a glimpse of duty, we might even be moved, such as when people serve their country in the military out of a sense of duty. From this perspective, duty is a fine thing. Having said that, Peter does not appeal to the Christian to serve out of duty. Instead, he says serve willingly. Peter, therefore, is getting at the heart of the issue. He is calling people to serve God out of a transformed heart that cannot do otherwise, a heart that sees that it is a privilege to serve and love God and his people in view of what Christ has done for us. What we are seeing here is nothing less than a new heart. For Christian ministry to flourish, we do not need people with a sense of Christian duty, we need people with a new heart.
Second, since we are talking about a willing heart, it is important to note that service should not be based on resources. Resources do not factor into the equation all that much. To put it another way, we do not serve, because we feel we have so much to give. And on the flipside, we do not withhold service, because we feel that we do not have much to give. Both of these ways of thinking are worldly in logic and lack an understanding of the gospel. Moreover it is rooted in self-centeredness. We must remember that we are most strong when we are weak. When we, in a sense, step aside and make ourselves available for God to use us, he will. Availability and willingness are a sign of a humble heart that is growing in Christ.
Based on this reasoning, we can say that often times we do not serve and give, not because we do not have time or resources, but because we do not have a generous, serving or loving heart. The problem is not with the resources; it is with the heart. A heart that is passionately in love with God will make time. Love has a funny way of changing everything. When we come to this realization, then we are approximating a solution. In other words, we are close to a confession of the status of our hearts. Put it this way. You can change everything, but if your heart is not changed, in the end there is no real change.
Third, 1 Peter 5:5-7 offers some timely encouragement. It contains two statements that will go a long way in transforming our hearts. First of all it says that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, when we humble ourselves, we can expect grace. When we, therefore, confess that we do not have a heart of love and pray to God for this love, in time he will give us love. Similarly, when we confess that we love ourselves too much and we ask God to make us more selfless, in time he will. And when we ask God for help to put the needs of other before our own, in time he will answer that as well. Even more incredibly, he will make us joyful as we serve willingly. If we follow this line of reasoning to its logical end, we will discover the secret of Christian joy and so much more.
This short passage also says that we should cast our anxieties on God, because he cares for us. This verse might be easy to understand on an intellectual level, but what we need is an existential tasting of it. When we do, we will be free to serve and love. Why? Our fears will go away. It is good to remember that perfect loves casts away fear. And where there is no fear, there is freedom to serve God willingly. Most importantly, this love and care has been demonstrated to us on the cross and resurrection of Christ. To him be the glory!
So, dear readers, the exhortation is to serve God willingly. Make yourself available for the work of God. When you do, God will surprise you with so much.