Parable of the Lost Sheep:
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he ill rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish” Matthew 18:12-14
There were once two different slave owners who each had 100 slaves. At the moment, the two properties were seemingly similar. In both the first and second slave masters’ properties, the slaves were well cared for, they had ample food and drinks, comfortable and safe shelter, and plentiful work–everything they could ask for as a slave. However, one day, 1 slave from each slave masters’ property had wandered away.
When the first slave master realized that the slave had wandered off, his countenance was grim–full of malice and vehement anger–he could not hold in his rage. “Oh, that he would leave me?! How dare he (the one servant) leave me? After all I’ve done to take care of him? I fed that servant, provided him a place to sleep, and gifted him with work to do. I’ve done so much, and yet this is how he dares to repay me?!” thundered the first slave master.
When the second slave master realized that his slave had wandered off, He was filled with overwhelming love for the lost servant. “Oh, that he would leave me!” Out of a deep concern for the lost slave, his grief was clearly shown on his distressed countenance.
Although one of the servants was missing, the first slave master could not possibly leave his 99 other slaves to find the lost servant. “At least I have 99 obedient slaves who would dare not disobey/leave me. Away with that lost slave! Useless, ungrateful, and filthy slave. I have no use for someone who does not follow me. When he realizes that he has nothing without me, he will come back begging for mercy and forgiveness. And when that happens, I will publicly disgrace him in the worst possible way. From now on, he is a public enemy to all who are on this property.”
The second slave master, out of a desperate desire for his lost slave to come back, immediately left to find the servant who had wandered off.
Eventually, like the first master had guessed–the slave had returned, asking for mercy. However, the slave was confronted with public humiliation and ridicule. He was shamed, degraded, and exiled out of the property.
When the second slave master had found the lost servant, he rejoiced over the lost servant more than the 99 servants who haven’t run away. Despite the lost servant’s disobedience and ignorance, He lovingly welcomed him back.
As you might have already guessed, the first slave master resembles the world. Momentarily, the world can and will provide you with everything and anything you could ask for. It could provide you with temporary happiness, temporary security, and temporary affections. However, in a glimpse of a second—the world can reject you and condemn you. The world’s affections for you are conditional. It’s based on performance—how much you can give and how well you can produce your contributions. You must give up a certain level of outputs in order to receive a certain level of inputs. When you fail to meet such expectations, you are condemned, degraded, and disgraced. In such a world, even when you ask for forgiveness—there is no grace given to you.
The second slave master resembles our God. Although God had provided everything for the servant, the ignorant servant had still chosen to wander away. Despite this, instead of being furious about the servant’s disobedience—God, the ultimate shepherd and loving slave master, sets off to find the lost servant. Not with spiteful hatred, but with overflowing love. You can think of His feelings for us exemplified in a father whose son/daughter had wandered off. Yes, there will be deep concern and fear for his lost child. But the feeling of love overpowers the concern and fear. Solely out of love, the father would deeply desire for the son/daughter to return to him. God, unlike the world, like a Father who found his son/daughter, rejoices because his once lost servant has been found. No shame, no guilt is put onto the servant who had wandered away. Instead, God’s welcoming and loving embrace awaits the servant. He offers so much of his forgiveness, grace, and love.
This is who God is. Although we are disobedient, although we are ignorant, and although we sometimes avert from the truth and all the beauties of God, God still crazily loves us. When we wander away, out of his fierce love for us—He immediately sought after us so that we may return to Him. Often times we may take granted of His grace for us, but put yourself in the slave master’s shoes for a moment. How easy is it for us to be like the first slave master? How easy is it for us to think, “how dare he/she do that, when I have done _____ amount of things for him/her?” In a society where everything is based on equal exchanges, everything is conditional–You must do this/give this amount in order to get get/receive this amount. It’s a constant battle between how much am I contributing vs how much is that person contributing, and am I receiving as much as I’m contributing? But God’s love for us is unconditional—it’s amazing! His grace for us is truly radical, because it simply doesn’t exist in the world alone. No amount of actions can make God love us MORE. No amount of actions can make God love us LESS. God will continually, fiercely love us—not because of who we are or our contributions, but because of who HE is.