In the last post I made I ended with some questions about the parable of the lost sheep. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I receive that parable. I wanted to really think about from what view-point I take the parable in and process it.
I think for most of my life, as I’ve heard this parable, I’ve always heard it from the perspective of one of the 99 sheep. It seems odd to me now that I would naturally never assume I was ever the one lost sheep that the Shepherd left the rest to go in search of. I think this has a lot to do with my church upbringing. Being brought up in the church it’s easy to make a habit of thinking of the lost sheep as the rest of the world and never really associating with it personally. At this point in my life I can clearly see where I have been (and sometimes still am) that wandering sheep. I do strongly believe that I am as much in need of a Savior today as I was yesterday, last week, last month, last year, and so on. And as the hymn says,
” O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter ,bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
That being said, the thing that strikes me about this parable is not the group of Christians who associate themselves with the 99 left behind, or the group that identifies with the lost sheep (although they are very different groups and the differences are interesting), the thing that grabs me is that none of us immediately identify ourselves with the shepherd.
When I realized this I had to stop and ask myself why I didn’t identify with the shepherd and my thought was something along the lines of, “well isn’t the shepherd symbolic of Jesus… but wait, shouldn’t I be identifying myself with Christ? Hmmm.” . It’s easy to understand, sheep follow the shepherd and we are followers of The Great Shepherd, but are we missing something vital in thinking like sheep instead of like shepherds? I think we are, which leads me to the next thing that struck me and a completely different passage of scripture.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
You may be wondering what these two passages have to do with each other, but don’t worry, I’m getting there. =)
In the Luke account of the parable of the lost sheep the text says of the shepherd, “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home.”
There are two important things that both of these stories have in common,
- Both the men who brought the paralytic and the shepherd carried the lost.
- Neither account required the lost to change their attitude or behavior before they were picked up.
In both of these biblical stories we see a picture of these faithful ones literally carrying the lost without condition and as I’ve studied these passages it’s begun to have a profound impact on the way I feel about how the Body of Christ acts towards our culture and the people around us. In Mark, Jesus sees the faith of the men who lowered the paralytic through the roof and he forgives him. Do you see that? Not for his own faith, but for the faith of those who carried him, he was forgiven. The shepherd in Luke doesn’t sit waiting with the rest of the sheep for the one who wandered to come back, or even for that sheep to call out for help, he goes immediately and searches until he finds him and the puts the sheep on his shoulders and carries him home.
These two visuals overwhelm me when I consider that so often Christians are standing between God and the lost and saying, “Repent to us first, admit that everything you think you are is wrong, and then we’ll point you in the direction of God.” .
It breaks my heart and I think it’s something we must change if we want to have a positive impact on the world around us.
So the question I ask myself now, the question I am prayerfully seeking an answer to is, how do we bring about this change, how do we carry the lost sheep?