Part 1 of the 3 part series: The Lost Sheep
The Lost Sheep is part of the two-week study "The Lost Series"
What does it mean to be lost? In a Christian context, most of us would immediately think of really bad sinners, people who have no faith or moral compass. We think of ourselves as decent people who go to church and "lost" people as those who are engulfed in -- or in many cases enslaved to -- the worldly pleasures of our culture. There is some truth to this. If we are made to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ, then living a life contrary to this would in fact indicate that we are "lost" on our journey. However, do we stop our thoughts there and pray for those people? Do we offer love and charity and hope? Or, as is often the case, do we look down upon those whom we consider lost?
The problem with this mindset is that it seems uncomfortably similar to that of the Pharisees and the scribes. It says in Luke 15:2 that "the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" As tax collectors and sinners were being drawn to Jesus, a good man who healed the sick and preached love, the Pharisees and scribes could only focus on the fact that he received and ate with sinners. My guess is that they kept their distance, judging from afar, because eating together would be too close and intimate for such righteous and such sinful people.
Jesus, knowing what is on their hearts and lips, begins preaching a parable that turns this entire attitude upside down. He talks about the one sheep who manages to get lost, and the shepherd leaves all the rest in the wilderness just to find it, never stopping his search until he does. Afterward he celebrates and rejoices with the community. Note that he doesn't condemn the sheep for getting lost in the first place but simply rejoices that it is found! And how much more rejoicing will there be when one sinner, one person with an eternal soul, repents and turns back to God? Jesus says there will be even more joy in heaven!
The Pharisees presume they are part of the 99 sheep, the righteous persons who need no repentance. They also fail to see the goodness of the shepherd going after the one lost sheep, the goodness in receiving sinners and loving them. So as we enter into this study on "the lost," let us pray for the grace to be humble, not presumptuous. Let us ask God to continually show us what it means to be both "lost" and "found," what it means to rejoice in others being "found," and how we can take to heart the words of Psalm 51:17:
"The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."