“Sheep need to be fed, swine need to be rebuked, wolves need to be shot, and dogs need to be beaten. Most of this work is to be done by the shepherds.”
The Power of Words and the Wonder of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor explore the impact of words in the Christian faith. The introduction lays this thought and the thought of the book out with this statement:
“What do words have to do with Christianity? Almost everything. At every stage in redemptive history – from the time before time, to God’s creation, to man’s fall, to Christ’s redemption, and to the coming consummation…God’s words decisively create, confront, convict, correct, and comfort. By his words he both interprets and instructs” (p 15).
After reading the introduction, I jumped to the fourth chapter of the book written by Mark Driscoll: How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words. The reason for the leaping to this chapter finds its logic in some areas of life that I am not at liberty to discuss, but it also had some appeal because I heard Driscoll speak something similar to this chapter on a podcast a while ago. I recommend reading this chapter yourself as his pointed humor and consideration about loving, though sometimes tough words is worth our thought. The bulk of the chapter can be captured by this section of his introduction:
“Throughout God’s Word, the Scriptures, God speaks tough and tender words to his people. He curses and he blesses. His words kill and his words give life. He speaks law from Mount Sinai and he speaks gospel from Golgotha. This balance between tough and tender speech is rooted ultimately in the character of God himself. Subsequently, Paul calls the church at Rome to consider both the kindness and the severity of God (Rom. 11:22). Tender words and tough words, spoken in love, fill the pages of the Bible. These words are a gracious gift because they reveal to us the fullness of God so that our speech may echo his. In order to inform and transform our words, we will examine the Word of God to hear his tender and tough words to sheep, swine, wolves, dogs, and shepherds” (p 81).
As I mentioned before, I would suggest that you read the chapter yourself to discover the way Driscoll prescribes speaking to each of the categories based upon Scripture. It is the end of the chapter that caught my eye and I would encourage people to practice. The header to this blog began with a quote, but I would like to show the quote in its entirety now:
“Sheep need to be fed, swine need to be rebuked, wolves need to be shot, and dogs need to be beaten. Most of this work is to be done by the shepherds. So the shepherds need prayer.
If you are a shepherd, you know that you need prayer. If you are a sheep, please do pray for your shepherd so that your heart would be tender toward him, and his heart would be tender toward God and God’s sheep. It would be most helpful to your shepherd if, before you rush to criticize him, you would spend time in prayer for him. In fact, you should pray for your shepherd more than you criticize him” (p 100).
The author goes on to list at least seven areas that people can pray for their shepherds (and trust me, it is needed and shepherds love to know that they are being supported by people’s prayers). 1) Please pray that God would give your shepherd a discerning mind. 2) Please pray that God would give your shepherd thick skin. 3) Please pray that your shepherd would have a good sense of humor. 4) Please pray that your shepherd would have a tender heart. 5) Please pray that your shepherd would have a humble disposition. 6) Please pray that your shepherd would have a supportive family. 7) Please pray that your shepherd would have an evangelistic devotion (pp 101-104).