One Lost Sheep
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” Luke 15:4-6
I will never forget the night an incredibly drunk man stumbled up to where my pastor who is now with the Lord was standing when he finished preaching at a church where he had been invited as a guest speaker. How unbelievably embarrassing, let alone awkward, for something like this to happen – especially at a church he was just visiting for that night’s service, right? He was not only not embarrassed, however. And he not only was not awkward in the least. For about 10 minutes straight, he held the man to his chest in a bear hug and prayed for him as the man likely cried in his arms if not at the very least drunkenly rested there. He held that drunken sinner in his arms like he was his very own son, and like he would never let go. He held him the way I believe God longs to hold us and the way He longs for us to hold one another.
When Jesus speaks of how a sheep owner would so value one lost sheep out of 100 sheep that he would go after it and would so rejoice over finding it that he would lay the sheep like a sweet baby over his shoulders, he isn’t just teaching a lesson to the Pharisees who in their relentless legalism, hardheartedness, and standoffishness can’t fathom why He would fellowship with sinners and publicans. He is teaching us that lesson!
He says there should be celebration when one sinner repents and turns to God compared with 99 people who don’t need to repent. No matter how many times I read these verses, it was years before my own long-time hardened heart had been replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19) open enough for God’s Spirit to show me what I needed to see – and do.
Jesus was modeling to us how we need to treat those our society so quickly and mercilessly condemns and turns its back on. A man bearing a sheep on his shoulders shows humility, love, nurture, kindness, patience, service, compassion, mercy, and the intimacy of touch. We need to stop running the other way when we see people who are drunk, high, homeless, hurting, mean, hopeless, suicidal, depressed, sick, lost, broken, prisoners, thieves, abusers, etc. We need to share the Gospel, the Word, and the love of Christ with them, hold them close with God’s mercy, and lead them to the feet of the Lord with sweet love and mercy. Like sheep, sweetly, tenderly on our shoulders.