7. What counsel did the apostle Paul give with regard to our attitude toward Christian overseers?
7 Our heavenly Shepherds, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, expect us to be obedient and submissive to the undershepherds whom they have placed in positions of responsibility within the congregation. (1 Peter 5:5) Under inspiration, the apostle Paul wrote: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith. Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.”—Hebrews 13:7, 17.
8. What does Paul invite us to “contemplate,” and how should we “be obedient”?
8 Notice that Paul invites us to “contemplate,” or carefully observe, the outcome of the faithful conduct of the elders and to follow such examples of faith. Furthermore, he counsels us to be obedient and to submit to the direction of these appointed men. Bible scholar R. T. France explains that in the original Greek, the word here translated “be obedient” is not “the normal term for obedience, but literally ‘be persuaded,’ implying a willing acceptance of their leadership.” We obey the elders not only because we are directed to do so in God’s Word but also because we are persuaded that they have Kingdom interests and our best interests at heart. We will certainly be happy if we willingly accept their leadership.
9. Why is it necessary for us to “be submissive” in addition to being obedient?
9 What, though, if we are not convinced that in a certain case the elders’ direction is the best way of doing things? That is where submission comes into play. It is easy to obey when everything is clear and we agree, but we will show that we are truly submissive if we yield even when we do not personally understand the direction provided. Peter, who later became an apostle, showed this kind of submission.—Luke 5:4, 5.
12. How are overseers “keeping watch over [our] souls”?
12 A second reason for cooperating with Christian overseers is that “they are keeping watch over [our] souls.” If they detect anything in our attitude or behavior that might endanger our spirituality, they are quick to give us needed counsel with a view to our readjustment. (Galatians 6:1) The Greek word translated “keeping watch” literally means “abstaining from sleep.” According to one Bible scholar, it “implies the unflagging vigilance of the shepherd.” In addition to their maintaining spiritual vigilance, elders may even lose sleep out of concern for our spiritual well-being. Should we not willingly cooperate with such loving undershepherds, who do their best to imitate the tender care given by Jesus Christ, “the great shepherd of the sheep”?—Hebrews 13:20.
13. To whom and in what ways are the overseers and all Christians accountable?
13 A third reason for our willingly cooperating with the overseers is that they keep watch over us “as those who will render an account.” Overseers remember that they are undershepherds, serving under the heavenly Shepherds, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. (Ezekiel 34:22-24) Jehovah is the Owner of the sheep, whom “he purchased with the blood of his own Son,” and He holds the appointed overseers accountable for the way they treat His flock, which should be “with tenderness.” (Acts 20:28, 29) Hence, all of us are answerable to Jehovah for the way we respond to his direction. (Romans 14:10-12) Our obedience to the appointed elders also gives evidence of our submission to Christ, the Head of the congregation.—Colossians 2:19.
14. What could lead to Christian overseers’ serving “with sighing,” and with what results?
14 Paul gave a fourth reason why we should humbly submit to Christian overseers. He wrote: “That they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.” (Hebrews 13:17) With their weighty responsibilities of teaching, shepherding, taking the lead in the preaching work, raising their families, and handling problems in the congregation, Christian elders carry a heavy load. (2 Corinthians 11:28, 29) If we fail to cooperate with them, we only add to their load. This would result in their “sighing.” Our showing an uncooperative spirit is displeasing to Jehovah and could prove to be damaging to us. Instead, when we show proper respect and cooperation, the elders can carry out their duties with joy, and this contributes to unity and joyful participation in the Kingdom-preaching work.—Romans 15:5, 6.