Read Luke 15:1-11.
Why is it that when we speak of “the lost” we automatically assume we are talking about those outside the church?
In our minds, THE LOST conjures images of unbelievers who do not know Jesus, do not care about Jesus, and want nothing to do with Jesus. We draw a line and place them on one side of the line and ourselves on the other: they are the LOST, we are the FOUND. And, of course, we know that it is our job to bring as many of them from that side of the line over to ours. Our mission, our evangelism, our programs and outreach are all about that line. Oh, and… we should pray, diligently, that the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers into the harvest field. To seek and save the LOST!
And, yet, I am not sure any of that is the point Jesus is getting at in the parables He tells us today from Luke 15. They are familiar ones. Jesus tells of a lost sheep, a lost coin and even a lost son (which we studied yesterday). A story of 1 sheep out of 99. A story of 1 coin out of 10. A story of 1 of 2 sons. All deemed lost. Three parables about three different things that become lost in different ways.
A Sheep unwittingly wonders away, browsing on one tuft of grass after another, on and on, through a hole in the fence, until it finally looks up and then it doesn’t know where it’s at.
A coin is inanimate. It can’t help itself in the slightest should it roll away under the refrigerator.
And, finally, there is the rebellious son. Any parent knows how willful a child’s rebellion can be at times.
All of them–the sheep, the coin, and the son– are lost in different ways.
That’s how it can be for us, too. A person can feel lost after the death of a loved one, feeling hopeless about how they can continue to live life without the one they love. A person can experience lostness in the aftermath of a failed marriage and be full of guilt and remorse about divorce. A person can feel lostness after speaking hateful words and burning bridges and then not knowing how to make peace and say “I’m sorry.” A person can feel lost fighting against a chronic illness. A person can be lost in immorality, continuing along that sinful path, too afraid, to consider what it might mean to turn back and too afraid to consider what others might think. A person can be lost in depression or mental illness. A person might feel lost in a dead-end job or financial hardship or crushing debt. A person might feel lost in a new community with no family and few friends. A person can become lost in pride, unwilling to bend or admit wrongdoing.
This form of lostness has nothing to do with believers and unbelievers. The story of the Lost Sheep or the Lost Coin or the Prodigal Son could be any of us. There are so many ways that we can be lost.
Questions to ponder:
Today I think we can learn much from Jesus’ little stories about how we look at our own sin and need for a Savior. But these stories also teach us much about how we look at others. It’s sobering for me to hear how much God is willing to put up with and to go through to reclaim a sheep or find a coin. What about my attitude toward the sheep of God? These precious sheep that God loves so much, how do I treat them? Every time someone sins against me, fails me, disappoints me, is rude to me, is hateful and ugly… do I just write them off? Label them a sinner, unworthy? Do I further the damage already done by repaying their evil with evil of my own? I mean think about… how often do we absolutely refuse to forgive others when they have done something that has hurt or upset us? Is that the way the Good Shepherd treats his sheep?
My Father in heaven, it is good to come to You. You are a welcome Refuge from the hate and jealousies of the world. In Your fellowship I find peace and quiet and love that is pure. When I am near You, I can be calm and composed, even though people around me may be bitter and loveless. Forgive me that I so often forget Your nearness and become the victim of anger or ill will. Help me to rejoice in the good fortune of others, instead of being selfish and jealous. I need Your help. Make me humble, grateful, and peaceable.
O Lord, You are so holy in Your love and so forgiving in Your mercy! Make me more like You. Give me the power to love people with a charity that overlooks their faults and pardons every ill will. Give me the grace to smile when I want to cry, and to forgive when I want to fight back. As You have shown me Your love in Jesus, so help me to live in love with all men. In the name of Jesus. Amen.