12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
Something about this passage has been bugging me lately. Who leaves 99 for 1? That is not natural. What kind of person would abandon the entire flock for one sheep? The non-compliant sheep. The one that can’t listen to or follow simple directions. Ninety-nine are doing it right and one is not, and that one is the focus. What better picture of Christ than this? I can’t get past the radical love that is displayed in this short parable. Not only does the shepherd seek the one, but he throws a party after finding it! Instead of disciplining the sheep or selling it and getting another one, he calls his friends and celebrates finding the lost sheep. It is so hard for me to wrap my head around this idea until I think about myself and others as the lost sheep. God found us. He found me. He is constantly celebrating our return to Him and wants us to help him find the other lost sheep in the world. That’s the mission. It is not to wander in the herd aimlessly, simply following directions. The mission is to constantly be pursuing the least of these.
There are a couple of ways to think about this. It can resemble a search party, frantic and scared about what they might find. Or it could look like a scavenger hunt or a game of hide and seek. The Bible affirms both types of “ministry.” However, I much prefer the game version. How exhausting would it be to always be scared and actively searching for lost souls (sheep)? I can’t imagine the stress and anxiety of that. God sent Jesus so that we don’t have to be frantic, but rather we get to be free. We get to freely help him in the hunt for lost souls. I view it as something to look forward to. When I say game please don’t think I am devaluing the importance of searching, but I think the shift in mindset can make a world of difference. Going back to Matthew 18, Jesus tells the disciples to have a childlike attitude. When we are kids there is not understanding of clean and unclean. Everyone is the same. What if God is calling us to see everyone as clean. See the salvation in their eyes. Chase after them like a kid on a playground. I get this giddy feeling even as I type these words! What if Christians had this attitude? Instead of self-reflecting and always thinking we are not good enough, just love. That’s it. It is not any more complicated than that. God is love.
I think it’s okay to live recklessly. More importantly, I think it’s okay to love recklessly. Jesus showed us what that looks like. Seek out those that are different. Seek out those who have hurt you. Forgive constantly. Because why the hell not? God forgave you. Live freely because you can. Love freely.