As a Hen Gathers Her Chicks: A Pastoral Lament

Sometimes there is great pain and frustration in pastoring.  You long so bad for your people to call on the name of the Lord, find salvation in Christ, and forsake the things of this world.  You want them to taste the goodness of God through His Word the Bible.  You want to be the good shepherd that leads your people into green pastures and beside cool waters.  You want your people to worship in Spirit and in truth.  And many times they don’t listen, they don’t follow, and they seemingly don’t care.  In fact, worse than that, many refuse to follow.  They prefer to chase the things of the world or be completely apathetic only completing religious duties “just in case.”  Many times I have looked upon the people I shepherd and thought “Ohh that they would just listen and choose God.”  There they would find the peace, joy, and happiness that they seek in everything else.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, displays the same sentiment in Luke 13:34 when he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”  The very people that were called to be God’s chosen people, the very people that were to display His glory to all the nations have rejected Him.  And Jesus laments, just as we lament over the people in our care that claim the name of God and yet reject Him at every turn.

Pastors can go several directions when they see their people rejecting God or just being apathetic.  We can get angry.  We can get mad at our sheep.  We can call them stupid, inconsiderate, and a host of other names.  Instead of getting angry, we can become more and more apathetic to those we are called to lead.  Since they don’t care about God and salvation we don’t care about trying to teach it to them.  And some pastors respond with force.  These pastors try to strong-arm their people into loving Jesus through varied means.  But Jesus laments.  He laments that every effort of the Father’s has been turned away and turned away with force.  The prophets of God have been killed and those sent to the people of God are stoned.  He wants to gather the people chosen of God, called of God, under his wing and protect them and provide for them, yet they won’t have it.  And the Good Shepherd laments the loss of this people.

As pastors, under shepherds to the Good shepherd, I think there are several things we can learn from Christ’s lament.  Recognize that the people you shepherd, though called of God, will probably reject you at some level or at some time when you are speaking in God’s name.  This is the knee-jerk reaction of fallen humanity to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  Humanity has been living in rebellion to God since the fall. It is no surprise that the shepherds of God in our day will be rejected just like Jesus.  This is why Paul is so elated in Philippians to see some of those he is leading following Jesus! 

When pastors are rejected like Jesus it is important, like Jesus, to rely on their calling.  Jesus fully understood the mission God had placed Him on and in the face of opposition He fell back on what God had called Him to do and pressed on.  Jesus kept ministering though the majority of Israel was turning there back on Him.  We should learn to persevere in the work God has called us to do no mater the opposition we receive.  A good shepherd is faithful to his work.  In fact, faithfulness in ministry is the only tangible marker of success for a pastor.

Finally, learn to lament over those God has entrusted to you to shepherd.  It is a sure sign that a pastor is growing as shepherd when they begin to take on the attitudes of Christ with their people instead of reacting inappropriately.  God throughout His word is perpetually asking His people to just come to Him.  Isaiah 1:18 says “come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Though Israel kept rejecting God, He kept offering grace to them.  God loves people and wants them to come to a saving faith in Him.  When the people reject God He laments because He really does love them and wants them to come to a saving knowledge of Him.  Pastors must learn a righteous lament just the same.

There is also an implicit warning in this passage to all sheep and pastors alike.  Jesus is lamenting over the city in which the people of God supposedly dwell, Jerusalem.  These are the people that have taken God’s name, attempted to live by His law, and yet in their hearts run far away from Him.  In Luke 13:35 we see Christ letting go of this people and forsaking them to there own ways.  Many pastors and churches today claim the name of God.  Pastors preach every week and congregants faithfully attend, they participate in religious rituals, and some even know their Bible well, yet the hearts of many are in complete rebellion to God.  The warning to all sheep and pastors alike in this passage is that God will give you the desires of our heart and for some that means being forsaken by Him forever. 

That is something to lament over.

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