One Saturday afternoon when I was 3 years old, I was at an indoor mall with my family. While walking inside this shrine to capitalism, I saw the window display for a toy store. I became enthralled! I stood gaping at all of these amazing toys, wondering what it would be like to play with or even own such treasures. One of the toys grabbed my attention, so I said, "Mommy, Mommy, look at that one!" when suddenly I realized, my mom wasn't there. Nor was my dad.
After looking around for a moment, I started calling out, "Mommy! Daddy!" When my calls didn't beckon them my way, I began frantically looking for them. I walked all around the immediate area and couldn't see them. My circular wandering led me back to the toy store window where I began to cry in earnest, and shoppers began to stop and ask if I was lost.
Suddenly, out of the blue, my dad stormed through the gathering crowd, grabbed my hand, and said, "Come on!" He was understandably relieved while simultaneously angry because he had apparently given me a direct command to keep moving with them, but I hadn't heard him due to the entrancing siren song of the toy window.
Have you ever truly been lost? Whether it happened while driving, or hiking, or walking with your parents at the mall, it can bring all sorts of emotions to one's heart: confusion, fear, frustration, anger, anxiety, panic, despair, and more.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables that describe non-Christians as "lost." The "lost" are people who are spiritually far from God. Some try to get found like a lost 3-year-old, but they call out to be found through their job, or entertainment, or their substances, or their reputation, or something else. Some of the spiritually disconnected have the typical feelings of being lost, but some don't. They don't realize they are lost, and so they aren't looking for God through Christ.
Whether they feel anything or not about their spiritual condition, lost people still matter deeply to God. How much do they matter to Him? First, when Jesus lived on the earth, He hung out with lost people so much he was accused of being a "friend of sinners." (Luke 7:34) And second, Jesus loved the lost so much, He willingly died in their place to pay for their sins! So if these people matter to God that much, they should matter to us as well.
But let's be honest: It is hard sometimes to love the "lost." Many of them eat, drink, vote, think, and talk differently than you. Most humans are drawn to people who are like them, because the more someone is like you, the more confident you will be that these people accept you. So many Christians find it hard to truly love people who approach life so differently.
Yet, because you've been accepted by God through Christ, you can genuinely love others just as God loves you. God didn't expect you to clean up your act before He sent Jesus for you. Even while you were still a sinner, Jesus died for you (Romans 5:8). And so if you are a follower of Jesus who is to live and love like Jesus, then you can love the "lost," even when they may not be like you.
But how do you grow in your love of the lost?
Yes, seeking to love the lost can at times seem scary. (That's what we will address next week.) But loving them can truly change your life, and possibly theirs.
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