What can we learn from a lost sheep? Apparently a lot, because Jesus gives us this parable in Matt. 18:10-14 for just that purpose. As Eddie pointed out in the message this past Sunday, the context of this parable is the disciples arguing with each other about who is the greatest. Imagine...your sitting with Jesus, the creator of the universe, arguing about who is the greatest. What hubris! What foolishness! Yet...how often do we think or wonder about thoughts like this. We all like to size ourselves up with others to see where we stand. Sad but true.
Here in his answer to the disciples and in this parable Jesus is using a little child to demonstrate what he means. He even brought a child and put him in his lap as a visual teaching moment. We must all be like little children. We must become like little children and the parable is viewing us as little children....little sheep...little ones. We saw how God views us as his "little ones", and when we see as God sees, it changes how we see each other.
First he values each little one equally. "Don't despise" any little one. Why? Because God doesn't. He loves and values each one of us, and he does so equally. Do we value each other like God values us? Secondly, God ministers to his little ones in need. Isn't this good news. God won't leave us out there alone to fend for ourselves, but is ready to minister to us and help us. He'll even use the angels to do this! How about us? Do we reach out when we see people in need? Thirdly, God pursues his little ones in sin. Boy is this good news, seeing how frequently we seem to stray off into sin. Just like when we first came to the Lord, it was him pursuing us. Aren't you glad God didn't decide one pursuit was enough? Now your on your own? No, God pursues us. He loves all his sheep, but he will leave the 99 who are still in the 'fold' to go on a mission to find the lost one. The one caught in sin. So, do we, in like manner, pursue those who have strayed or been caught in sin? Or are we just happy to have the '99' who are left? Fourthly God rejoices in the little ones who are reconciled and brought back into the fold. He comes back from his successful pursuit rejoicing! Even the angels rejoice when one is reconciled. Do we rejoice over the repentance and reconciliation of one who has strayed? Eddie recounted the story of his wife losing one of their sons in the Mall. They frantically searched until they found him and when they did they didn't scold, they rejoiced with great joy! Can you relate to that? Finally God's will is for all his little ones to grow....to progress. He doesn't want any little one to perish. The word for perish means to be wounded or marred. He doesn't want anything to hinder us from growing. When we stay in our sin we are marring the work that God is intending to accomplish and God will pursue us until we repent and find that place of growth once again. How about us? Do we desire to see the growth of our fellow believers? Are we willing to be and extension of Jesus to help each other out of sinful, marring situations...to pursue each other, so that we can effectively grow in Christ?
In the end the bottom line is when we see things as God sees things, it changes how we see each other. We will value, and minister to, and pursue each other, and rejoice at the faith, repentance and growth we observe in each other.