How Much Do Lost People Matter?

By Steven D. Mathewson

When the religious leaders of Jesus’ day criticized him for hanging out with sinners, Jesus told three stories about lost items: a lost sheep (Luke 15:1–7), a lost coin (Luke 15:8–10), and a lost son (Luke 15:11–32).

The shepherd left 99 sheep in open country to search for one lost sheep. He didn’t say, “Oh well, 99 percent isn’t bad. You’re going to lose one once in a while.”

The peasant woman swept the reed-covered dirt floor until she spied the lost coin. She didn’t say, “Oh well, it’s only a day’s wage.”

The father checks the road for the sign of his lost son’s return. He didn’t say, “Forget him. If he’s going to be such an idiot, then I’ll pour my life into my older son.”

In each case, the value of what’s lost dictated an intensive search.

Jesus is saying that the value of lost people demands an intensive response. Our failures to reach our communities stem more from faulty perspective than from faulty technique. Intensive searches happen only when we place a premium on the lost item. Technique usually takes care of itself when we share Jesus’ perspective.

When we bump into people during the day, how do we view them? We notice that Todd is unfriendly. The truth is, he is lost. We think of Rob as a kind grandfather and a reliable neighbor. The truth is, he is lost. We view Sharon as a gorgeous blond with great potential as an interior decorator. The truth is, she’s lost.

If people are really lost, and if these lost people are valuable, then an intensive search-and-rescue mission is in order. When we value lost people as Jesus did, outreach will happen, and more people will sing, “I once was lost, but now am found, ’twas blind, but now I see.”

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