Along with knowing and providing for their flocks, Jesus and shepherd leaders protect. Safety is one of our most basic human needs (as Abraham Maslow’s pioneering theory proposed in 1943: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs) and much energy and attention is focused on deficiency needs. In many parts of the world, good leaders must help provide protection from external forces such as hostile enemies, harsh natural elements, and debilitating disease. Until safety is secured, people are unable to thrive.
There are other forms of protection good leaders ensure. Most people need protection from subtle (or not so subtle) internal forces such as greed, jealousy, and lack of forgiveness. Children and adults alike can be oblivious to the harm crouching nearby seeking to devour. Wise leaders bring experience and understanding to people and situations to avert unintended consequences.
Discerning when and where and how to protect is an ever-present challenge for caring leaders. From within the Gospels we see Jesus protecting the disciples from Satan, from people, and from self.
Jesus was well aware of Satan’s attacks having experienced them in the wilderness before launching His public ministry (Mark 1:13); dealing with him during His ministry years (Mark 8:33); and allowing him to accomplish God’s purposes near the end of His earthly ministry (John 13:27). He taught about the work of Satan in stealing the seeds of truth (Mark 4:15) and protected Peter when Satan demanded to harm him (Luke 22:31). Should those of us seeking to live and lead like Jesus expect any less need to protect from Satan?
People who do not mind the things of God will harm overtly or covertly. Jesus taught the disciples to beware of false prophets, Pharisees, and Sadducees along with their teaching (Matthew 7:15, 16:6,12). He warned them against the “wolves” (Matthew 7:15, 10:16) and strong men (Luke 11:22) who would do them harm. There will be people who actually think that they are serving God’s cause by their groundless actions, as could have been the case with Judas (John 16:2). Then there are those who are motivated selfishly to hurt others. Leaders need to be wise and discerning to protect people from evil inside and outside the body of Christ.
Perhaps the hardest form of protecting is when trying to help another see what they are doing to themselves. John and James, motivated by their mother, asked for benefits for which they were clueless about the implications (Mark 10:35-40). Several times Jesus chided the disciples for aspirations of greatness. He told them specifically to beware of greed (Luke 12:15). Motives cannot be managed; they can only be crucified daily. Good leaders model self-protection and through accountability help others with protection from themselves.
The caring leader is a protector of those he or she serves. An environment must be created where safety exists so honest and transparent communication is normative. The Armor of God must be valued and worn at all times to protect from spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). Boundaries (such as Cloud and Townsend have written about for all of life relationships) must be created to protect people from others who would cause hurt. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit must be cultivated in order to not grieve or quench His guiding in the way of truth and health.
How have you sought to protect those you lead? What could be lurking with the potential to bring small or great harm that you should enquire about? Although we will not likely lay down our life for another’s protection, we can and must protect if we lead like Jesus.
Next blog: Jesus the Caring Leader Summary