When Jesus tells three parables in Luke 15—the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost son—there is a unified message: Lost people matter to God.
It’s a comforting thought to know that God is pursuing us. It’s heart warming to note that He cares to bring us back to the fold. My concern, however, is that once we become followers of Christ we don’t often consider our role in being a part of this pursuit of others.
While we like the idea of God going after lost sheep, we’re not always keen to do the same. Truthfully, I’m not always ready to seek after those who do not yet know Christ as Lord. It’s not even that I’m too shy or too nervous, but for whatever reason I seem to allow dozens of less important things come before my seeking “the lost.”
Two years ago I wrote a short parable entitled, The Parable of Found Sheep. In this story, I attempt to capture the mindset of those within the local church who are unmotivated to engage in evangelism. I think that part of my motivation to write this parable was to increase my own distaste for what I would call a fortress mentality—a mindset that I fear is entrenched within many congregations.
The Parable of Found Sheep is, however, merely my personal perspective. What should be more compelling is the perspective of the Lord when it comes to seeking the lost. Accordingly, I found myself recently gripped by the Word of the Lord delivered through the prophet Ezekiel:
Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only look after themselves!…You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. (Ezekiel 34:2,4)
The leaders of Israel were judged by God according to whether or not they pursued lost sheep. I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest that the Church will be similarly judged according to our willingness to do the same. I know that it’s not pleasant to imagine God evaluating and judging our behaviour, but I can’t seem to find a way around the “Woe to” warning in Ezekiel. Particularly we who have been entrusted with the flock have been given a clear priority: Pursue lost sheep.
I may be engaged in 101 good and helpful things, but if I don’t have an active concern for those who aren’t yet here, I’m neglecting one of my key duties.The Parables of Luke 15 are more than a beautiful description of how God pursues us. These parables are designed to inspire us to the same.
On Sunday, April 18, at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I delivered a message (audio below) on this subject as the 2nd message in the series, “Parting Words From Your Pastor”. I am convinced that pursuing those who are not yet following Christ is to be among our highest priorities.
May we always aspire to follow in the footsteps of our Good Shepherd!