Wow! Way to put the three parables in uncomfortable perspective! Thanks Jesus.
The lengthy response Jesus gave to the Pharisees regarding his hanging out with sinners over some bread and wine is lengthy and broad. In Luke 15, Jesus is speaking to tax collectors and others that, with parentheses, the religious honchos described as sinners. Maybe there was some food there as well. Of course, these dudes did not appreciate Jesus getting the religious attention from these guys who should repent and turn away from their anti-Jewish lifestyles. To this Jesus jumps into the three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the Prodigal Son, who was lost as well.
All three parables have a lost thing or person, followed by a time of searching and wondering, then the denouement of the story with the finding of the lost item or person. Next comes an invitation to celebrate what was lost to the friends and family by each person who found the missing something. And each one included a celebration of the lost one over the sound and saved many.
Perhaps the most difficult teaching point from parables is the idea that the one lost person should be treasured and sought after. We walk through crowded streets overflowing with acquaintances, friendships, colleagues, and connections. My address book gets bigger while my Friends list on social networking sites creeps upwards in height…A sin issue I am wrestling through is the idea that many of my friends are not heartfelt-I want them to want to have a relationship with me, yet my sinful heart sees the inward insecurity mixed with the lackluster effort I put into knowing them more and having an interest in their hearts and lives. After attending a party last night, I am burdened by the fact that I am tired of party conversation. My heart yearns for acceptance and deep understanding. I want to be wanted and desired as a person through intimate conversation, quality time, and intentionality.
Is this the hidden reason the sinners came to listen to Jesus in Luke 15? Did they desire truth and love in their relationships and loved hearing this truth from a genuine and caring teacher? Yeah, most likely! The individual wants to be known. Even the smallest wallflower desires to crawl upwards to see the Sun radiate warmth, energy, and longevity. That person desires some personal connection, and only does this fear and desire of connection come only in rare cases as phobias, conditions, depression, and over-arching all these sources is the Devil, the one who desires loneliness, separation, broken-hearts, and languish. My sin is a doorway to that dark hallway leading to fears that have plagued me for many years. As is yours, most likely.
God cares about the individual, either a coin or a sheep or a son. In fact, God had to let his son go to the cross, fully separated from the Trinity as he was covered in sin and death. Yet, a greater magic exists from before time (Narnia reference…) that makes their personal, intimate relationship intake, without fear or miscommunication or resentment. Christ does not resent his role, as neither does the Spirit, since it did not get much clear play-time in the Old Testament. God does get a bit upset with his children regarding our ways that we seek that personal, one-on-one connection with the ‘Love Connection’ game-show mindset, rather than the sacrificial, heart-aching, lasting relationship with the Father. God cares so much about the individual that ‘unique’ and ‘diverse’ are good words in the Church.
May my heart care much for the individual. May my ministry and life be for the individual. So the next party I am attending, let my heart not focus on making sure that I am connecting with everyone in attendance, but that I am connecting with an individual-one person. If my time is spend talking to 1 or 2 or 3 people the whole time then it has been worth the while spending that time in Christ-modeling communication and relationship. May this carry over into my daily routine with work colleagues or the friend I meet for lunch. May my heart be to seek out the individuals who I see opportunities for connecting with through commonalities, but even more than that I should seek to identify ways that the unfamiliar person has entry points for relationship. May my actions be respect, admiration, time-valuing.
Who is the one, the individual, the solitary person you know?