Grace and Peace to you.
Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
— Luke 15.4
Well, none of us, actually. Who would leave 99, guaranteed, to find just one maybe? A lover of long odds, champion of the impossible.
That would be God, Seeker of the Hopeless, Companion of the Lost, Paramour of the Wretched. Oh, we think we're so realistic. We suppose such a God would have to be a ridiculous optimist. But God just knows more than we do. So off goes the shepherd, over our tiny horizon.
We are enamored of the “after” picture. We all want to be “after.” After you've done whatever we suppose makes God happy, you get to go to heaven. But have you noticed it's always the “before” picture that God heads for? God loves the rough cuts, the unfinished ones—you know, those pesky wretched sinners that we want so much not to be. The lost sheep. Loves 'em. Delights in them. Gladly leaves 99 righteous sheep (who are sure they are God's favorites) and heads off into the brambles for the one wayward fleabag. Which is a good thing, because we're not actually as found and finished as we think. If someone asks, ”Are you saved?” and you're afraid the answer is no, you're in luck. You're the type God really loves.
So maybe we can relax. Stop trying to be the “after” picture, the perfect sheep, and just trust that God really loves us as we are. Sure, we want to repent, grow, all that stuff. But repentance is mostly learning to trust that God loves us before we get there. And practicing that on everybody around us. Learning to love people while they're still lost—since that's pretty much the only way God has to love us.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes