So, for example, is there a 21st-century American equivalent to the shepherd about which we could say, “Look: most of you have never seen a shepherd, so rather than try to unpack what a shepherd does, let’s think about [Profession X] which is just like being a shepherd”? My opinion is that there is no equivalent, and we have to unpack the metaphor Scripture has for us. But we took away the challenge to think about the matter and report back.
So, I took the matter to the Holy Spirit, which in my house is manifest most often in my wife. She slept on it, and she came up with two great conclusions:
1. Men would probably like it if the shepherd metaphor translated into “Staff Sergeant” or “General” or “CEO.” It would make macho sense to them. But they would be wrong: A shepherd is much more like a Kindergarten teacher than like a sergeant or a CEO. Of course, you can’t sell a lot of books to men in business if your thesis is, “Jesus really is a lot more like a good Kindergarten teacher than a superhero or a king when it comes to dealing with us stupid sinners.”
2. The biggest separation, however, between the Good Shepherd metaphor and the CEO is that the shepherd lives with his sheep in every way. That is, the shepherd has to get dirty and do distasteful and even degrading things to make sure he takes proper care of his sheep.I don’t know a lot of CEOs who are ready to degrade themselves, for example, by working in the same conditions as the hourly single parent who has to work on the line. “But cent,” you might say, “the CEO does a pretty radically different kind of work than the hourly employee,” and I’d agree with you. Christ does a pretty radically different work than I do, but you know something: though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
If you are looking for the model of leadership demonstrated in Christ, look there at the dirty sheep-herd who lives with his sheep, and sleeps with his sheep, and has to personally stand between his sheep and the wolves.