I have not forgotten some of the lessons from Luke 15 and the parable about the lost sheep. It's been marinating for weeks now and I'm still shaken by it. I've already written about how the tax collectors and sinners leaned in to listen to Jesus as they ate with Him, while the Pharisee's and teachers of the law simply muttered and criticized! Sometimes, the so called "lost" people of our world listen and actually hear way more than we realize. I love this quote from biblegateway.com's commentary on Luke 15:
"The fact that tax collectors and sinners listen to Jesus while the leadership does not is a cultural reversal of expectation. Sometimes hearers are found in surprising places."
Two questions for myself from this:
Do I even have friends who are "lost" or do I live in my own little Christian bubble?
When I am around nonChristians, do they lean in and hear Jesus on my lips?
I'm still convinced that they will listen intently if what they're hearing is actually Jesus...if we are speaking Jesus' words in His merciful and eternally loving ways. Sadly, what my lost friends hear more often from me and other Christians is more of the muttering and criticizing as opposed to Jesus' words of grace.
Having said that, I'm also mesmerized by the rest of this parable. The basics as I see it are these:
1. God goes out of the expected way to search for and find those who are not close to Him. Scripture plainly says that He leaves the NINETY- NINE in the open country. Are you kidding me, Shepherd? Leave the majority of those sheep, the ones who aren't wandering off, just to find ONE? Isn't that ridiculous math? I mean seriously, aren't 99 safe sheep more important than one drifter? That seems upside down from how it should be!!
There's no other way to put this...Jesus values individuals! The shepherd thought that one sheep was as worthy of being rescued as those other sheep who never wandered off! All those Pharisees could do was condemn and gossip about the tax collectors and sinners, but Jesus is saying that they are as worthy of His mercy and attention and fellowship as those who devoted their life to keeping the law. Yet again, Jesus shows us the "upside-down-ness" of God's Kingdom! He values not only the lost, but the individual. When's the last time I invested in a lost individual as opposed to trying to impress the masses of church people?
2. Once He finds that one...that ONE...He brings them home and celebrates! He doesn't lecture, He doesn't refuse to ever take that sheep out again, He doesn't complain. He lovingly carries the sheep home on His shoulders and then throws a party! This also underscores the absolute value of one soul to God because a party is expensive and time intensive and messy, but it was the only reaction we see recorded here. When's the last time I genuinely celebrated that one lost person who was rescued as opposed to shaking my head and just feeling relief? And I love that the shepherd called his friends to celebrate! Those Pharisee's should have been willing to celebrate with Jesus that tax collectors and sinners were being rescued, but they weren't true friends of Jesus. They were only rule followers, not willing to even consider the upside-down principles of God's Kingdom.
Am I living and leading an upside-down faith?
I want to value one lost person so much so that I notice them missing, I pursue them persistently, and I celebrate over their safe return with my friends! What changes would I have to make in my belief system, my submission, my ego, and my daily life to become an upside-down shepherd or at least a partying friend of the Great Shepherd?