Loyalty is the key to leadership
What defined true Christian leadership? In this passage, Jesus pointed to himself as the model. He was willing to put himself in harm’s way for his followers. Jesus exemplified a highly esteemed cultural value for his time: loyalty. His loyalty would extend to his own death. Any follower who desired leadership in the Christian community should be willing to face the same fate. They must be loyal to the Lord and his followers, no matter the cost.
Unlike the loyal leader, the hireling played to the audience, but fled at the sight of any danger. Notice that the hireling's courage and personal integrity were questioned. Jesus inferred leadership would be tested. Indeed, any who aspired to leadership must be willing to be tested. With testing came disappointment and the possibility of disillusionment. After all, to walk in the footsteps of the Master meant a journey to the cross. The entire journey would bring joy and pain. Sometimes on a day by day basis.
Notice, like many of the other passages from John, Jesus painted two contrasting pictures of spiritual leadership: The loyal leader and the coward. But, underneath the contrasting pictures, Jesus emphasised leadership was a process of ongoing choices between self-giving and selfish preservation. The loyal leader died for his (or her) flock (even a little each day) in to hope of resurrection. But, the hireling didn't want to die for the flock, because he (or she) had another agenda. How did a Christian leader know if he (or she) was a good shepherd? The shepherd empowered the sheep to an intimate relationship with the Lord and his Father. This was the value for which one would willingly give up his (or her) life.
-- An extract from a reflection on the Gospel by Larry Broding, at the Word-Sunday