God's Love Finds Us
Today, let’s examine how God pursues the outcast. In the ancient Near East, an outcast was someone the community rejected and excommunicated. That outcast would enjoy none of the benefits of being in community: work, worship, societal support, burial. They were considered dead to the in-group.
We ought to be considered outcasts to God because of sin. God is holy, and sin separates us. Yet, even as Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, God crafted a plan to bring them back into relationship with Him.
Miraculously, unfathomably, God pursues us. With God, there’s no “good enough”; He desires to bring one hundred out of one hundred sheep into the fold of His love. Jesus illustrated this stubborn pursuit of the wandering by telling the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son in Luke 15. You’ll notice that a coin lacks its own volition, a sheep has very limited wits, and the prodigal son lacked gratitude or virtue. In each of these parables, the value of the pursued was set by the pursuer. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8 declares (NIV). We too are the coin, and the sheep, and that prodigal daughter. If not for the lavish, compassionate love of God, we would remain lost. But God!
What's Good Enough?
As a daughter of God, one of the ninety-nine sheep in His fold, “good enough” should never be good enough for us either; we should be concerned for the one still wandering. However, we should not be surprised by our natural revulsion for the one who’s still in harm’s way.
Consider the reaction of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son: “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:29–30).
Even the children who spend their days in the Father’s house are prone to resentment and entitlement that comes from underestimating the grace of God and the enormity of our own sin. The older brother thought his father’s love was transactional, something to be earned or forfeited. We think this way too when we believe a person is so tawdry, corrupt, or selfish that he or she is beyond the love of God. We forget ourselves.
The Fold of God
The older brother was comparing his righteousness to his brother’s, but that was wrong comparison to make. When we compare our righteousness to Jesus’, we’re on track to experience gratitude for His compassion toward us, and our hearts can sincerely rejoice when He celebrates the homecoming of a wayward son or daughter. We cannot make disciples with logs in our eyes (Matthew 7:5), haughty tongues, or arrogant hearts. Humility is the gateway to receiving both God’s mercy and justice with joy.
In Luke 7:36–50, a woman with a scandalous past washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, while other diners at the dinner labeled the woman as a sinner. In their self-importance, they were blind to their own sin and unworthiness. Jesus, however, accepted her worship, covered her with dignity, and regaled her with forgiveness: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).
We have been forgiven much! Let’s look for the lost—not to condemn them, not to remind them they are not worthy of God, since none of us is! When we seek the lost, we are on the Lord’s side, beckoning people into the relief and love that comes only from being in the fold of God.