I am forever misplacing my keys or my wallet. It can happen anytime, but often it happens in the morning. Frustration builds knowing that I am on the verge of arriving late to an appointment or meeting. The result is panic and chaos as I search desperately for either (sometimes both). I try to calm down enough to sit still and remember the last time I had possession of them.
If the truth be told, the panic and frustration I feel in those moments has nothing to do with how I’m about to inconvenience the person I’m scheduled to meet. Rather, my frustration is about my inability to control what the person I’m meeting that morning thinks of me. The point being: there is always a value associated with something that is lost, and the more something is valued, the more its loss is felt.
In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables about lost things: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. To fully understand these parables one must appreciate the social context provided in the first two verses of Luke 15.
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
It was the grumbling of the Pharisees and Scribes that prompted Jesus to tell the three parables of lost things. The point of all three parables revealed the God’s compassion for sinners whom the religious elite simply looked down upon as morally inferior – those who were not worthy of a shared meal.
For example, in the first parable about the lost sheep, Jesus’ point was to contrast the values of the Scribes and Pharisees with the values of God. Jesus’ clear message to the religious leaders exposed that they valued money more than people. In this parable, Jesus said to the religious leaders:
“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. 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 that was lost.’”
Jesus immediately contrasted the values of God’s heart saying,
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
God doesn’t rejoice over lost sheep but over lost people. The religious leaders threw a party when a commodity was saved, whereas heaven threw a party and rejoiced when sinners were reclaimed.
The point being that if we want to participate in Jesus’ mission of reclaiming lost people, we must first love lost people. Raising a young family in the suburbs of Lake Norman often doesn’t leave a lot of room or energy for loving our neighbors. The Scribes and the Pharisees were too self-righteous to love them, and we are often simply too busy.
So how do we get started?
Below are four things to consider as we seek to be a community that loves our neighbors …
1. Start with Repentance.
We may need to confess that our hearts resemble those of the Scribes and Pharisees more than we want to admit. It’s easy to allow the pursuit of the American Dream to replace our dying to self for the Kingdom of Christ.
2. Start with Something Simple.
Host a neighborhood play group or invite a neighbor over for an evening dinner. Crossfit has become the easiest way for me to meet and make friends with all kinds of people who would never consider taking a step inside NorthCross.
3. Keep it Relational.
Remember relational capital is often required to earn the right to enter into a spiritual conversation with anyone. Focus on becoming a good friend more than trying to say the right thing.
4. Make Sure it’s Disruptive.
I know this sounds odd but loving our neighbors in a way that doesn’t require some sacrifice could easily be a ministry placebo that is more about quieting a guilty conscience than it is actually serving our neighbors around us.