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“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
1 Timothy 5:17-18
Highly merited praise for elders (synonymous with shepherds or bishops) and deacons that personally take care of their spiritual sheep during the Coronavirus Plague!
In such a way that the sheep of the congregation hear their VOICE, by telephone or through personal visits conducted, of course, according to parameters of social distancing in place to avoid transmitting the virus or being infected by it.
The unique voice of a true elder-shepherd.
The comforting, compassionate, tranquilizing, and firm voice of a live and present elder-shepherd who is personally concerned for each and every one of the sheep under his care in the sheepfold that is his congregation.
Especially during times of crisis and danger, such as this Time of the Coronavirus.
The mature voice of the wise elder-shepherd-bishop strong in the Lord, whether there be, or not be, pandemics, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, sicknesses, surgeries, threats of imminent death, or other misfortunes, whatever their nature.
The voice of the elder-shepherd that loves, “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18) all the sheep, without exception.
Who does not limit his personal contact to a favorite group of the sheep he knows best, nor to those with the most abundant, lustrous, and valuable wool.
On the contrary, who is concerned even more for the weak sheep, for those that quickly wander astray, for the sickly ones, for those of a somewhat indomitable nature who feel little loyalty to the flock.
Who reaches out to such sheep with an even greater personal striving and zeal.
For he is their shepherd and to watch after them is his very personal DUTY, more than that of any other person associated with the flock. Take care of them. Feed them. Keep them in line. In close collaboration with fellow elders-shepherds. Acts 14:23; 20:17-31
The one that gets lost, search for it! “…on the mountains”, wherever those mountains are. “And if he finds it,” bring it back to the flock! Matthew 18:10-14; John 15:3-7
Search for it in the confines of secular homes.
Along the twisted and dark byways of misleading “philosophes and empty deceit,” “human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the universe,” (Colossians 2:8), and different gospels. Galatians 1:6-20
In the venues of worldly, sensual entertainments, carnal passions, and vices contrary to nature.
For, “it is not the will of” the “Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:10-14
Nevertheless, if the shepherds “the Holy Spirit has made… overseers, to care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Peter 5:1-5) do not personally fulfill, each one of them, his divinely given charge, and with even more earnestness and diligent work in this Time of the Coronavirus Plague, then, even a substantial percentage of each congregational flock may possibly be lost!
“PERSONALLY” is the key adverb.
The good elder-shepherd-bishop “calls his own sheep by name,” and “the sheep hear his voice.” “…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
He knows all his sheep well, personally; and they know him. A extremely easy, personal relationship, without barriers.
For them, he is not almost like a stranger who does not inspire trust. Even less like a “hired hand.” On the contrary, they perceive him as a spiritual protector and provider, easily accessible, kindly, affable, discreet, wise, and quick to serve. John 10:1-27; 2 Timothy 2:24-26
What tenderness, love, and trust between shepherd and sheep are projected in this photograph! A close relationship, and not distant, impersonal, through third parties.
The sheep need to hear the voices of their elders-shepherds especially during times of unexpected, strange, disorienting, dangerous, and persistent crises, such as those unleashed by the Coronavirus Plague.
And also the voices of the deacons of the congregation. For, although they have not yet reached the grade of experience, wisdom, the strength of spirit, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7) that distinguish the good elder-shepherd, it is nevertheless certain that those who “serve well as deacons” must, by the very nature of their principal ministry, take physical and material care, precisely, of the sheep. 1 Timothy 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-7
And this special care puts them, necessarily, in direct personal contact with the sheep, it is assumed. Not limiting themselves to the fenced-in area of the sheepfold, that is, to the meeting place, but exercising their ministry wherever and whenever it is needed, including private homes, clinics, hospitals, homes for the elderly, orphan homes, emergency shelters, courts, the streets…
The special care that, according to biblical guidelines, should be administered with true, spiritual love, friendly attention, and ready willingness.
To be sure, such refined, selfless, precious Christian treatment benefits not only the physical body but also the heart, mind, and spirit of the favored recipient, bringing consolation, well-being, and security.
Given that the Coronavius Plague has scattered, alarmingly so in not a few cases, the sheep of congregational flocks around the world during a whole year, not coming together even at this time (March 2021) up to 50%, or more, of the sheep that were obeying the voice of the elders-shepherds before this diabolical phenomenon, there arises the following strong inquietude:
Is it conceivable that the sheep still scattered out there have not even heard, in a personal way, the voices of their own shepherds-elders-bishops, neither those of their deacons, during a whole year?
Maybe because those shepherds and deacons have not made any personal contact with them?
Perhaps thinking they had fulfilled their duty by simply planning and implementing regulations that would keep the sheep that do come to the sheepfold from becoming infected with the coronavirus.
Or, consider they are doing enough by using the virtual medium to make announcements and exhort, in a generalized way, the straying sheep to return.
Or, because they are counting on staff, already contracted and in place, to maintain personal contact with all the sheep, for that responsibility is stipulated in their work description. An agreement which, by the way, effectively relieves the elders-shepherds-bishops of a responsibility that is basically theirs, according to texts such as Actos 20:28, 1 Peter 5:1-5 and Titus 1:5-9.
Well, and if it happens that the staff itself makes, in reality, little or no personal contact with those scattered sheep that show scarce interest in returning to the sheepfold. Not by telephone, Messenger, Whatsapp, e-mail, Twitter, or any other digital media. Nor by personal visits. Only, perhaps, by printed or electronic bulletins.
Really, wherever concepts, attitudes, and circumstances of that nature prevail, it would not be surprising that a permanent loss would be eventually registered of 15%, 20%, 30%, 40%, or more, of the sheep on the tally record before the abominable Coronavirus Plague exploded across the world.
However that may be, the true elders-shepherds of the sheepfold-congregation are not the members of the staff, but are the Christian men who are biblically called and constituted for the very special and glorious ministry of “the office of bishop.”
“The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.” 1 Timothy 3:1
Perhaps the scattered sheep would respond to the live voice, loving, encouraging and mature, of true elders-shepherds-bishops. To the voice of the bíblical shepherd, profoundly spiritual, deeply concerned for the sheep in his care, affable, gentle, desirous of doing everything necessary to rescue the sheep in danger of being lost forever.
“Brother elder-shepherd such and such called me! Inquiring about how the Coronavirus Plague may have impacted me, spiritually as well as materially. Asking me if I had been vaccinated, about my health, that of my family, and if I have a need of any kind. Putting himself at my disposal. This is very, very significant for me! No longer do I feel forgotten. Next Sunday, I am going to return to the sheepfold!”
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