What is Jesus’ kingdom corrective to this? It starts with syncing our priorities with the primacy of Jesus’ mission. We actively search for lost sheep—not hope that lost sheep look for us. Therefore, we happily inconvenience our personal comforts and disrupt our religious preferences for the sake of effectively participating in Jesus’ selfless and courageous search and rescue mission.
(Matthew 4:19, Matthew 5:14, Matthew 28:19–20, Mark 8:35, Mark 10:29–30, Luke 15:3–7, John 20:21, 1 Peter 2:9.)
Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep teaches us that faithful shepherds prioritize the life-and-death search and rescue of the one sheep that is lost. In most communities in the Western world, the numbers are the opposite. We have one to ten percent of our communities safe in our fancy sheep pens complete with all the trimmings. Christian softball leagues. Christian mom’s groups. Christian book clubs. Christian day cares. And on and on and on. Meanwhile ninety to ninety-nine percent of our communities are wandering around, exposed, desperate, and spiritually terrified. Lost.
The response of Jesus’ church to this spiritual reality cannot continue to be, “Hey, five percent, how can we get you to join our sheep pen? Have you seen our gym? What are your sacred preferences?”
Is there anything worse than being lost? Most of our neighbors might honestly answer (if they felt safe enough), “Yes.” “I’m lost. I’m depressed. I’m terrified for my kids. I’m lonely. And I have no hope that things will get better. I have no hope of a rescue.”
Perhaps it is time for Jesus’ church to put secondary preferences in their proper place and suit up for the inconvenience of Jesus’ selfless search and rescue mission. Leave the lakeside loungers to the all-consuming pursuit of their sacred preferences and bring the willing with us as we join Jesus on his mission.
And bring Johnny home safe to his Father.
(Note: For each of the Seven Temptations in this series of articles, I am including a few illustrating paragraphs of narrative from my novel, “Once You See: Seven Temptations of the Western Church.”)
A Different ‘Body’ Illustrated in ‘Once You See’:
Luca parked a little way from the house and walked up the street to the neighborhood jewelry shop. It was a place Luca did not enter with any sort of regularity; there was seldom extra cash in the Lewis budget for extravagances like jewelry. But today was different. This wasn’t a peace offering. And it wasn’t an obligation. This was simply Luca’s best way to tangibly express his love, appreciation, and admiration to a precious woman who had put up with too much.
He was warmly greeted at Patterson’s Jewelry by a woman named Brenda who, by Luca’s estimation, appeared to be in her mid-thirties, and fully capable to be his guide within this very unfamiliar arena. Brenda recognized at once Luca’s look of awkward uncertainty common to men who came bumbling into her store. She politely asked, “Can I be of help?”
Luca told her that he was looking for a small gold cross on a dainty chain for his wife. To Luca, “dainty” was a veiled euphemism for cheap. It was to be a special gift, a love offering, but not one that would break the bank.