A Passion for the Lost
Luke 15:1 ¶ Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.
Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:3 ¶ So he told them this parable:
Luke 15:4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
Luke 15:5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.
Luke 15:6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The official religious folk were always looking out for Jesus, just hoping to catch him in doing something wrong! In their minds, one of the worst things that he did was hang out with sinners. Why would he not hang out with the “good” religious folk?
Why indeed? Because Jesus had a passion and a love for those who were lost. Immediately he tells them the story of the lost sheep, explaining that the ninety-nine were safe, but there was one little sheep that had wandered off. The good shepherd goes and finds the one that is lost and brings it home.
All of heaven joins in the passion for the ones who are lost and there is great rejoicing when they are brought home.
I love having conversations with young people these days, especially those with a passion for the lost. Their creativity abounds as they imagine different ways in which they may engage the culture. There are those who want to do coffee house ministry, others who want to do rap ministry, and yet others who want to do relief and development work around the world. I’m excited about this generation who wants to leave the ninety-nine and go, be like Jesus, welcoming sinners and eating with them.
But there is something important here. Jesus did more than just eat with them. He brought to them the good news of the kingdom of God. He healed their bodies, their minds and their emotions and he often sent them away telling them to “sin no more.” The good shepherd goes out to find the lost but then he brings them home. It is in the act of bringing them home that all of heaven rejoices — they do not rejoice in his eating with the sinners.
There is a passion to hang with sinners — but is there a passion to bring them home? Early members of the holiness movement were passionate about the lost. They wanted to be like Jesus and so they stepped out into the world and looked for the lost sheep. They brought them to Jesus where they discovered the transformational power of a personal relationship with him. Could it be that this is the key step that might be missing today? And could it be that our relationship with Christ is at the core of this?
How many of us have fallen deeply in love with Jesus Christ? It is only when I fall deeply and passionately in love with him that I want others to experience the same. Out of my love for him, it becomes my desire to share him with others who are lost. I remember the recovering addicts with whom we worked in Ukraine — they would often tell me how grateful they were for all that Jesus had done for them. As a result, they could not keep quiet. They wanted to go back to their hometowns and plant churches so that others could experience what they had in Christ. This passion for the lost came from the overflow of their lives.
The Pharisees had hung around in doing the right religious things all of their lives. Sadly, they had not experienced a deep and profound love for God. They didn’t understand the heart of God and so now, when confronted with God’s son, they had no love for him either. As a result, they had no love for the lost. Instead, they were angry that they weren’t getting the attention they felt they deserved.
May a great love for Jesus well up inside of us, moving us to the place of passionate engagement with the lost world.
Lord, may I love you and love others today. Amen.