Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Shepherd as The Weak, and The Temptation to Tyranny



Musings sparked by Dr. Paul Louis Metzger’s blog: “Pulp Fiction and Divine Intervention: Fact or Fiction?” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uncommongodcommongood/2013/05/pulp-fiction-and-divine-intervention-fact-or-fiction/)

Here’s a link to a clearer presentation of the scene under consideration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PeyiU3uWJ8. Some will find the language objectionable, of course. And there’s a lot more to exegete in these 276 seconds of screen-time. (Note: I’m indebted to Professor Brian Fuller, currently at Calvin College – http://www.brianfuller.org/  – for training in “Theology through Film” – TH 6340, Simpson Graduate School of Ministry, Summer 2007.) But here’s what particularly strikes me in watching the scene again this morning:

Unredeemed, Jules accurately calls himself “the tyranny of evil men.” Perceiving divine intervention in his own life, he now recognizes in Ringo and Yolanda the consequences of dwelling beside, rather than journeying along the path. Therefore, he’s “trying real hard to be the shepherd” for the sake of “the weak” who would otherwise succumb to the inherent threats of “the valley of darkness.”

Two applications suggest themselves to me. First, that some among the as-yet-unredeemed recognize, in the brokenness of this world, the futility of seeking to win the game it imposes upon us. Even before the Holy Spirit brings one to receive Christ, there is often a longing for some other choice beyond those which are offered, and the strong sense that what once seemed to be a pathway has become a damnable dwelling place.

The more difficult application, inasmuch as I am called “Pastor,” is my continuing need for “trying real hard to be the shepherd.” Jeremiah 23:1-4 (see below*) suggests that those presumed to be shepherds (due to position, privilege, and power) may be, in fact, obliviously participating within “the tyranny of evil men.” Jeremiah makes it clear that God’s plan is not thwarted by their failure. But given the potential for succumbing to the threats and setting up housekeeping in “the valley of darkness,” Jules’ final word (in that it echoes Jesus’ – “Go.”) motivates me to keep moving, and leading others, along the path.

Still, the threats and promises of the darkness are pervasive and often subtle. Those who are called shepherds may succumb to serving that darkness, ultimately disabling the flock that follows them. Presuming our own authority may even lead us to mirror “the tyranny of evil men” in applying worldly systems and practices to ministry, and to do so quite “successfully.” But those who recognize in themselves that temptation, and in response are “trying real hard to be the shepherd,” may be those best equipped to serve “the weak.”

*Referenced above:

Jeremiah 23:1-4 (NASB-95)
1 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the Lord. 3 “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. 4 “I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

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