God’s Amazing Love Series
Fifth of five reflections on the love of God
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” —Luke 15:3-6 NIV
We’ve spent over a month celebrating God’s deep love for us. Yet, a question still remains. What if I walk away from that love by my own choice? What if I reject that love because I’m angry with God or because I want my own way over His? What then? It’s a fair question. What if you walk away?
Jesus devoted three parables to this question in Luke 15. Let’s look at the sheep first. One of the sheep is initially part of the pack. He’s hanging out with the other ninety-nine fellow sheep doing sheep-like things with them, when one day he gets lost. Jesus doesn’t tell us how this happens. Was he so involved in chewing on a particularly juicy grass patch that he didn’t notice the flock had left him behind? Perhaps as he races to catch up, he’s caught in a thorn bush. We don’t know how much of his “lostness” was his own fault. However, this we do know. The shepherd doesn’t shrug his shoulders and decide that ninety-nine sheep are good enough and one loss doesn’t matter. No, he leaves ninety-nine sheep untended and goes after the little lost one himself.
What happens when he comes back with that sheep on his strong shoulders? Does he scold and throw that sheep down in disgust with the others? Nope. He gathers all his friends and neighbors because it’s such a big deal to him and tells them that his lost sheep has been found! Jesus cares for the one who is lost no matter how many others He might have.
In case one example isn’t enough, Jesus then shares a story about a woman who loses a valuable coin. She doesn’t just shrug her shoulders over that one either. Instead, she lights a lamp so she can see better, sweeps ever-so-carefully through the house, and searches until she finds that coin. Yes, that one coin mattered. She is so happy about finding it that she invites everyone she knows over to rejoice with her. It’s a big deal, not “just another coin.” Jesus highlights again with this story that the one who is lost is very important to Him.
In both of these stories, one might expect to find an exception clause. The sheep and the coin might not have willfully decided to lose themselves. Because our God wants no doubts, Jesus tells a third story about an arrogant son, who demands his inheritance before his father’s death and then takes off with it and spends it on drunken carousing and evil living, wasting every hard-earned penny the father had given him. If ever a lost one did not deserve to be welcomed back, it’s this prodigal. In this story, because he chose to leave, his father does not chase after him.
Oh, but the father does wait for him, look for him, yearn for him! And when, from a far distance he sees the prodigal limping home in rags and remorse, that father runs to him, all dignity set aside. And even though, if ever a son needed a scolding, we’d think this one did, the father sees it differently. He sees the son’s remorse and brokenness, and he does not trample on this bruised one. Instead, he puts new clothing on him, hugs him, and, yes—throws a party for him!
In all three stories when a lost one is found, we find celebration instead of condemnation. Let’s get this straight. Paul tells us in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV), and that is a huge gift to those of us who are prone to wander away and get ourselves lost. Satan condemns. God celebrates when we turn back to Him. No matter how far we wander, no matter how many wicked, selfish, ugly things we do, if we limp our way toward Him, He runs to meet us and gathers us in His arms of love.
You and I are deeply, unreasonably, incredibly loved by the God who made us.
Let’s never ever get over the wonder of that!
Heavenly Father, how humbling it is to see the immensity of Your patient love poured out for us who walk away too easily and too often. Thank You for these stories that tell us of Your love and joy when a lost one is found! You welcome those of us who limp back to You ragged and ashamed. You paid an awfully high price for our redemption, and You rejoice when we receive this great gift! Oh, God Almighty, may we never tire of thanking You and receiving grace from Your generous hand. Because of Jesus and His Name we pray, Amen.
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
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