Read: 1 Peter 5:1-11
Consider: Peter’s first letter was written to churches facing persecution in the Roman provinces, in what is modern-day Turkey. In today’s reading Peter is speaking to the elders in the church, encouraging them to be shepherds of God’s flock that is under their care (1 Peter 5:2). Peter sets out the expectations any group of believers should have of those who lead them.
Firstly, Peter tells the elders that they should be willing to take on the responsibility of watching over the flock. Secondly, the elders should be eager to serve the believers for whom they have responsibility. Thirdly, they should be examples to those they lead (5:2-30).
Peter also articulates the characteristics of those who are not true shepherds; those who are not watching over their flock. Firstly, some leaders may grudgingly take on the role without realising the full extent of their responsibility. They may even have accepted the role assuming that they will only encounter harmony in the church. At the first sign of disagreement they become disillusioned and begin to resent those for whom they are responsible. Secondly, those who seek dishonest gain, over serving their flock, are not worthy of the name elder. Unfortunately there are many examples of congregations throughout the world where their leaders have sought to live a lavish lifestyle, expecting their congregations to fund it. Thirdly, those who think themselves above contradiction may tend to lord it over their congregation. Unwilling to accept any criticism, they may even force those who disagree with them to leave the church.
Peter lets us see the very distinct differences between those who take on leadership roles for the right reasons and those who do it for the wrong reasons. Peter reminds the elders that while they are shepherds of the flock (5:2), they are answerable to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (5:4).
In 1 Peter 5:5 we read: In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. What does ‘In the same way’ mean? Looking back at the earlier verses it must mean that just as the elders are required to submit to the Chief Shepherd (Jesus Christ), so the younger members should submit to their elders.
Finally notice that Peter says: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder …’ (5:1). What Peter has challenged the elders in the other churches to be like, is exactly what the members of the church in Rome can expect of him. He is not setting himself above others in his expectations, but alongside all other church leaders in how they should watch over those for whom they have responsibility.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10)
Pray: Father, we pray for all those in positions of leadership in the church, that they may humbly submit to the Chief Shepherd. May the example they set for others follow the example Christ set for those who love him. Amen