Taking Care of Family
We talk often and teach frequently about seeking and saving the lost. Without a doubt, it's one one of the most important things we try to accomplish as Christians, to inform those who have never heard, and teach them what somebody else taught us, and desire that they choose Jesus.
Another thing we do that is equally important, is keeping the saved saved. Scripture is filled with teachings about falling away and ways we keep from doing that. There are warnings about our position with God if we come to know Christ and then choose to abandon Him. We are also warned about our actions contributing to other people's decisions that might lead them astray.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a parable about wandering sheep. It's right in between a section about causing others to stumble and dealing with sin in the church, so we need to take heed because He's talking about us. God does not want any of us, once in His fold, to wander off and become lost and outside of His family. What else can we learn from this short lesson from Christ?
In this story, this shepherd spent time, energy, and had a great concern over one small animal. You know animals are fragile, especially those that normally are the prey to other animals. For all this shepherd knew, he would never find this sheep alive. He had ninety-nine more. He had so many more that he would have to count to even know one was missing, yet he diligently set out to find the missing sheep, even leaving the ninety-nine temporarily. He had more happiness over finding and saving the lone lost sheep than for the ninety-nine that were never in any danger.
Luke 15 tells the same story, followed by one about a woman finding a lost coin in the same basic scenario, and has this to say, "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Have you read that before and assumed that the one sinner who repented was one who had never come to Christ before? In the context of this story, it's more likely that it is referring to a Christian who has fallen into sin and left the family of God, who repents of that sin and comes home to the family, the ninety-nine. Why is there such rejoicing in Heaven? Because that which was lost is now back home where it belongs. That which was separated has been re-joined. Or in the parable of the lost son, "that which was dead, is alive again"!
We need to be watching out for the dangers that confront the weaker ones in our fold. We need to be looking for the one sheep that is falling behind or has gone missing while we weren't paying attention, and we need to go looking for them, diligently, until we find them and hopefully rescue them. It's comfortable to stay with the ninety-nine, and it's easy to miss the fact that one or two are not there when we are surrounded by such a great number of others. Let us be careful to take a head count, and see if any of our fold needs rescuing. And if by chance it is us who need rescuing, may the LORD help us to reach out to those who can come and help carry us back to the ninety-nine.