You can almost hear the disgust in the voices of the teachers and Pharisees. They couldn't fathom how Jesus could possibly associate with such people! They were spiritually unclean! THEY WERE SINNERS! Why in the world would Jesus ever want to be connected to these kinds of people. And it wasn't that he just associated with them. No, Jesus actually enjoyed their company.
Why would Jesus do something that was so offense to the upstanding members of the community? Didn't he realize that the religious people would be greatly offended by these associations? And if he did know - didn't he care about their thoughts and feelings? The answers to all these questions lie within the very reason why Jesus came to this world. It lies within the objective of the mission that Jesus was sent here to pursue and the mission that he has given us to pursue as well. We find the answer in a story that Jesus tells about the lost sheep. In it we find out why Jesus' approach was so radically different from that of all the other religious leaders of his day. I would even go so far as to say it is radically different from the approach that most churches in North America use today. I wonder? If Jesus was here in the flesh in our day would we be the Pharisees? Here are the lesson we learn about Christ's mission from the story of a lost sheep:
- GOD'S MISSION IS ALWAYS OUTSIDE OUR RELIGIOUS BUBBLES!
Notice that there is a leaving that is taking place! The man has to leave the flock in order to go find the sheep that was lost. He didn't remain satisfied with a 99% success rate. This shepherd was compeled to leave the others to search for that one sheep that was missing. He didn't stay with the flock and try a bunch of methods that would entice and attract the lost sheep back into the fold.
Churches that only have "HOLY HUDDLES" and never get their people to leave and engage the community will never be able to accomplish Christ's mission. Lost people if they are going to learn and accept Jesus are going to do so because some brave followers of Christ have decided that being on mission happens outside a church building, outside their religious gatherings, and in the community where the lost people are at.
This leaving the RELIGIOUS BUBBLE is an intentional act. It is deliberate and planned act. It is intentional, deliberate and planned because the aim is to reach others who are not part of our holy huddle or any other holy huddle for that matter.
- GOD'S TREATMENT OF SINNERS IS ONE OF TENDER LOVING CARE
Isn't that a beautiful picture! The shepherd finds his lost sheep and when he does he probably find it scared, hungry, thirsty and maybe physically beaten. And because of the shepherds compassion he tenderly and carefully picks up and lamb and places him on his shoulder to carry him back to the fold. The one thing you don't see is the shepherd yelling or screaming at the sheep! You don't hear the shepherd tearing down the sheep by saying, "You stupid sheep. Look how dumb you've been!" You don't see him hitting the sheep with his rod and forcing him to go walk back home! Instead you see a tenderness and a loving care for the sheep.
How sad is it when someone who has been so beaten down by the world and made horrible choices finally decide to take a chance and go to church with the hope that maybe God will have mercy on them and then they find hypocritical Christian looking down their long and judgmental noise at them.
Once we find sinners who are tired, beaten and ready to repent how we treat them is of utmost importance. Should we yell at them, criticize them or belittle them? Or should be tenderly and compassionately care for them.
- GOD'S GOAL IS TO BRING THEM HOME
The shepherd's intention was to bring him home and back into the fold where he can be nurtured and cared for. What do we want to do with sinners when we reach them? Are we ready and willing to have them to be part of our church fellowship? A lesson that I have been learning is that the people that God assigns for us to reach out to are non-negotiable. We don't get to pick and chose who we will reach. We reach those whom God has assigned us to reach. And our assignment is not just to reach them but also to love and accept them as a full member of the family. God expects us to extend to them the same grace that he extended to us.
- WHEN THIS HAPPENS ALL HEAVEN REJOICES.
- Get out of our religious bubbles and back out into the dark world where our lights can shine the brightest and be the most use.
- Truly and compassionately love the sinner and not with just words but with your actions. Serve them, minister to them and be willing to get dirty with them.
- Make those sinners as they repent to God fully functioning members of the God's family. Don't treat them as if they were some second class citizen or a red headed step child.
- And as each new person comes to faith in Christ have a PARTY and rejoice.