“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (Luke 15:4–5, esv).
Would this picture of the shepherd from Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep be an accurate description of your heart for lost people?
For many Christians, lost people are primarily a nuisance. The attitude is that they get in the way . . . or they’re the ones who mess up life . . . or they use language that religious people shouldn’t have to tolerate . . . or they don’t follow the same rules . . . or they’re the reason the world is in the bad shape it’s in.
“As long as even one lost person is missing, we’ve still got a job to do.”
Yet at a time when “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him” and the religious elites were off to the side, grumbling, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1–2), Jesus told a story intended to change the way we view and respond to people who are lost without Him.
1. We should feel a personal responsibility for them. The shepherd in Jesus’ parable was already flush with ninety-nine of his hundred sheep. Only one was missing. Just one. And based on what we know from school and the business world, 99 percent is a passing grade or dominant market share in anybody’s book. But as long as even one lost person is missing, we’ve still got a job to do. It may be dark and cold out there, wherever we need to go looking for them. We may already be tucked in and comfortable with our personal situation. But the believer who loves lost people thinks of the one in need of rescue, and says, “If not me, who?”
2. We should feel a sense of urgency about them. This is not a responsibility to put off until next week, until we’re feeling more up to it, or until there’s a break in our busy schedule. The shepherd dropped what he was doing and headed out in search of his lost lamb. Immediately. The lost people within our field of vision—in our family, at work, in our various places of recreation—are in need of our interest, prayer, and attention this minute. Today. That’s why the believer who really loves them is the kind of person who asks himself, “If not now, when?”
3. We should feel a heart of compassion for them. Those who labored as shepherds in Jesus’ day weren’t just naturally soft-hearted teddy bears. Theirs was a rugged, weather-beaten, outdoorsy occupation. But the shepherd He described in His parable was one who demonstrated through his actions that he genuinely cared about the condition of his flock, enough to not just notice the one that was missing but to actually do something about it.
“If not me, who?”
“If not now, when?”
That’s the heart of responsibility, urgency, and compassion that defines the difference between two kinds of Christians: religious Christians who seek to insulate themselves from what they perceive as the “problem people” of the world, and shepherd-minded Christians who live with a prayerful, passionate, persistent burden for seeing lost people found.
Which type of Christian are you?
Father, thank You for seeking me when I wasn’t seeking You, and for the people You placed in my path who felt responsible for introducing You to me. Your salvation makes all the difference in my life. Forgive me, Lord, for all the times I don’t carry this same burden for others. I know the people You are calling to Yourself are sure to come to You, but I also know You’ve called me to do my part in reaching them and caring about them. Please use me for this joyful purpose, and grow my heart for the lost. In Jesus’ worthy name, amen.