Too often we assume that church is supposed to be a “perfect” place full of “good” people. We feel like we would love it if our church was made up of 252 people who think and act like we do. The truth is, the less people are like us, the harder it is to love them. People are messy and carry the streak of sin; sadly enough, that includes you and me.
Blogger Tim Challies presented “a Heavenly Perspective of the Prodigal” using Luke 15 to illustrate the depth of our Savior’s love for His desperate people. Some realize they are desperate and others don’t, and maybe never will.
As you read Mr. Challies’ description of the Parable of the Lost Sheep ask yourself: Does every sheep know that it needs a Shepherd?
Luke 15:4a - A Shepherd’s Anguish: The Shepherd’s heart skips a beat. Something is wrong! One of his sheep is missing! This is a Good Shepherd who knows that His sheep is missing. It is the speckled one, the one with the bent ear. The Shepherd had cared for the mother, was there when the sheep was born, he has loved this sheep, provided for it as He watched it grow. And now it’s missing! He worries because the Shepherd knows that sheep are not nature’s survivalists. They are absolutely dependent on the Shepherd.
Luke 15:4b - A Shepherd’s Quest: Sheep wander. Sheep are wolf-bait. It’s not a compliment to be called a sheep, and yet, it is the description of us in the world. The Shepherd does not leave sheep to be devoured, He cries out, “My flock will never be complete without this ONE!” The only measure of success is to find and rescue it.
Through all of this what does the sheep consider? Nothing. What does the Shepherd consider? Everything. He is the one who leads, loves, listens and searches until He finds that ONE sheep.
Luke 15:5-6 - A Shepherd’s Joy: What joy when He finds the sheep! He doesn’t rebuke or punish it. He is not disgusted by it and doesn’t say the sheep has to work its way back. He does not berate or hold a grudge. He doesn’t tell the sheep it made Him look bad. Instead, He is full of joy! God loves to seek, speak to, and save the lost.
Jesus is talking to us – the church! God saves sinners!
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)
Note the contrast in Luke 15 – on one hand there are the tax collectors and sinners and on the other are the Pharisees. The tax collectors and sinners are the people who are seen as “bad”. They know they are "bad" and they know that most people don’t want them around. But Jesus not only accepts their hospitality, He actually enjoys their company.
Then there are the Pharisees. By worldly standards, they are considered the “good” people. They make sure that everyone can see how "good" they are. They want you to know they are holy and obey rules with a flare. When the Pharisees see Jesus with the taxes collectors and sinners they think that He needs higher standards.
Even then, the “good” people didn’t want to spend time with the “bad” people because it might ruin their hard-earned reputation. They want to protect their “goodness” at any cost.
Today, you and I have much the same choice to make: are we the sinners or the Pharisees? Although the “titles” might be different, the premise is still the same. Do we worry that if we spend time with certain people, it might diminish our reputations? Who are the “sinners and tax collectors” in your church and community? Whose reputation are we afraid will tarnish our own?
Are you willing to spend time with those whom Christian culture deems unacceptable? Maybe you are nice to them on Sunday morning, but do you have them in your homes? Do you let them around your children?
We are so grateful that we have a Savior who extends grace to us. It should be our joy to help others out of the mess they have made. It is the very joy of angels!
In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
Do you make it your purpose to seek out sinners? If God cares so much for the lost, how can you ignore them? Do you long for His sheep? Do you welcome them in your fold? Do you have confidence in the character of the Shepherd?
Consider your own “lostness”, fellow sheep. He sought us out and drew us to Himself. When we recognize how lost we are, offering grace to fellow lost sheep seems far less daunting.
Do you know a prodigal who has wandered from the fold?
It is not because of confidence in ourselves to reach out, but in the Good shepherd who loves to rescue!
These notes were taken from Tim Challies’ talk, “The Parable of the Lost Sheep”. If you find that you are struggling with loving another in your church, please ask someone to help you. If you would like, you can contact me at email@example.com for prayer, accountability, and resources.