Tuesday, September 20, 2016


In Jesus' familiar parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd obviously believes that sheep lives matter. He left his comfort zone to pursue the one-out-of-a-hundred which was missing -- launching out into the dark night rather than bedding down with his flock for a good sleep under the stars. There were 100 sheep -- all their lives mattered -- but there was one whose circumstances called for prioritization. He was lost. The parable gives no information as to why or how he became lost. We tend to jump to the conclusion that it was his fault. He had special needs the 99 did not. They were comfortable, well-fed, and safe. Well it must be that he had been rebellious or foolish. He decided to wander off. Right? It is the nature of sheep after all (Isaiah 53:6). But we don't know that it was his fault. It wouldn't be hard to imagine reasons he became separated from the flock which were not his fault or the result of poor decisions he made, or that his own laziness in not following got him in trouble. Perhaps he was sick or injured and no one noticed that he couldn't keep up. Perhaps a bully-sheep chased him off and he was unable or afraid to catch up and face more abuse. Or perhaps . . . you fill in the blank with other possibilities. Frankly, even if it was his fault, it didn't seem to matter to the shepherd. The fact was that the lost sheep needed special attention -- more than the other 99 -- and so the shepherd dropped everything to pursue him. Jesus' story didn't address blame, only need. Jesus always seemed to prioritize those who were marginalized, oppressed, or in need -- widows, orphans, women, children, the homeless, those in poverty, the hungry, those with inadequate resources, the sick, the incarcerated, those trapped in sin (think for example of James 1:27; Matthew 25:31ff; Luke 15:1f; John 8:1ff). "Wait a minute," I hear someone responding, don't "ALL LIVES MATTER?" Of course they do. But not all lives need prioritization like the lost sheep, the widow and orphan, the hungry and homeless, the oppressed, etc. Perhaps there are lessons here for churches. There is a natural tendency to turn INWARD -- to prioritize the needs of the already saved. The budget,the staff, the programming, the attention -- all seem to prioritize the "found," while little time and few resources are focused on "the lost." Perhaps there are some cultural lessons too -- for example, "Black lives matter." What would Jesus say?

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