In 1 Peter 5:2 we are encouraged to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” That text has driven me through many hills and valleys within my years of pastoral ministry. I’ve found this observation from Jared Wilson particularly helpful:
“We frequently find ourselves trying to shepherd the flock of God that we want, the one we imagine them to be, the one we want them to be. But God through Peter commands us to shepherd the church we’ve actually got.” (Wilson, The Pastor’s Justification, 30)
I’d like to add a thought to Jared’s. Not only are we prone to try to “shepherd the flock of God we want” but we’re also prone to wish-dream the wolves we’d like to be fending off. It’s always easier to fend off toothless wolves. And it’s far easier to play the man and flex our muscles against those enemies which our sheep have agreed are dangerous. They’ll thank you for standing with them against Farmer Jones’ wolf. But they’ll be far less inclined to sing your praises when you shear the wolf in sheep’s clothing that they’ve buddied up to.
I’ll be specific. For some folks it would take a ton of chutzpah to shout down the godless ideologies within CRT in their context. For others it would take some serious courage to shout down the godless nationalism within their context. The context which God has placed me in would be far more inclined to struggle with nationalism than they would critical race theory. If I stood up in the pulpit on a Sunday and explained critical race theory (which I’d have to do) I don’t believe many of our people would be convicted. They’d be inclined to happily help in throwing rocks at Farmer Jones’ wolf.
There is going to be a much different response if one of the points of my sermon is decrying nationalism. I’d have to pick up the pieces of that truth grenade. We would have quite a few questions to answer. There would be confusion. Some might even be angry. You see, that wolf has teeth and it’s dressed in wool among our people.
I’ll be vulnerable with you for a moment. I can struggle with passivity and with making comfort an idol. So it can be very tempting for me to shout down toothless or distant wolves. But I’m also a man who is dedicated to preaching God’s Word as it is, and when God leads me to Isaiah the prophet and we have to start talking about idols, I know that it’s my calling to pull down the stuff we’re actually struggling with. Ripping out idols always comes with blood-letting. And so I shake in my boots as I preach about nationalism from Isaiah. At times I mince words were I shouldn’t. But I with trembling call out OUR idols.
I’m not interested in listening to (and being) a prophet who calls out other people’s idols. The Pharisees were good at that. They were well skilled in
throwing red meat to their base but they lacked the prophetic chutzpah to speak to their own sin and call out the stuff that threatened to topple the systems that fed them.
Now if you’d allow me a moment to be specific again. This is why I’m a bit flummoxed and discouraged by our seminary leaders calling out CRT. And why I’m not really inspired by letters and emails from our leaders calling for us to stand our ground against cultural progressivism. It’s not that they cannot or should not speak to these. And those “wolves” perhaps are a danger to their particular pen. BUT I also know that the toothy grin of nationalism needs to be sheared among us as well.
What I’m attempting to say is that I’d be far more inclined to listen to these denouncements of CRT if they were balanced by calls against nationalism. But that’s really the rub, isn’t it? Why aren’t we seeing emails from our leaders on this issue? Why aren’t we seeing our seminary heads come together to put out a statement against jingoism? Why don’t we hear many of our leaders discussing the damage to our witness that has been done by our unmoving commitment to one party?
Imagine with me if you will the types of letters and threats at withholding CP funding you’d see if these leaders took that type of stance. It’d be messy. You’d have folks calling for nuance. You’d hear plenty of arguments about why patriotism is a fine thing if put within it’s proper bounds. If our nationalism is tempered by the Scriptures and in submission to Christ, then is it really something that we need to call out? Think of all the damage such a thing would cause. Why? Because that idol is far more prevalent among us. It’s not Farmer John’s idol. It’s ours.