“Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
And He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? “And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’
“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”” Luke 15:1-10, NASB.
I sometimes wonder if people become irritated at being referred to as “The Lost?” It is such a pejorative term, and the way it is usually tossed around I think it loses the spirit in which Jesus meant it to be understood. Maybe if we need a block term it would be better if we called them “The Sought’ or possibly “The Sorely Missed.’ Their lostness is not really their defining characteristic. If I lose a pencil, it doesn’t matter, I just find another; their lostness is not what is important. I think the idea is that their presence is sorely missed, that they are considered as invaluable and much desired, that their estrangement is very undesirable to God. When we think of people as “The Lost’ we really lose the notion that they are the pearl God is seeking.
How is it that people become lost? Does God not know where they are? This is all a metaphor for a much greater truth, of course. I am fond of saying that God is not co-dependent, nor is He some kind of control freak. He certainly has the power to control, but it seems to be quite important to Him that He play hands-off. He lets us choose our own way, even if it means making terrible mistakes, big mistakes. However, Jesus seemed to like these makers of mistakes, these sinners, and they seemed to like Him. He saw beyond their mistakes, past their sin, to see something in them that was worth passionate desire. There was some fondness going on here which offended the established religious legalists. They grumbled! For God’s sake, He is EATING with them! He actually likes these people!