Summary: God’s grace is often hard for us to fathom, so Jesus talked to us about it a lot!
“Get Found, Kid!”
Margaret Fleming, an Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Constitutional Defense Division of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office writes this:
“We are not told why ‘all the tax collectors and sinners’ were drawn to Jesus.
We only know His gentle and encouraging response to them: Jesus affirms their worth.
They are as precious as silver, and God puts everything aside to seek them out.
What gracious words for the ears of those who feel worthless and lost…
The Creator of heaven and earth never stops seeking any of us.
God longs to establish an equally close relationship with those we find it most difficult to love—those who abuse the innocent, and even those who rape, kill, torture, or neglect.
Is it possible that God loves them with all the passion and longing that is extended to us?”
Fleming continues, “Often in my prayers, I remember the victims of injustice and oppression.
I neglect, however, to pray for the powerful oppressors—those who long for God’s peace, yet whose passion for God has been misdirected and whose souls are clouded.
We must be vigilant in our prayer for such persons…”
That is a hard thing to do—especially for those who have been victims of horrible abuse.
It’s much easier and much more natural to pray for the destruction of such folk!
To take an extreme example, can we pray for Osama bin Laden?
Can we pray for his transformation and salvation?
Can we pray that he be used to do God’s good will?
We may be able to understand Jesus’ parables a bit better if we remember that the strict Religionists of Jesus’ day said, not, “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents,” but, “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God.”
No wonder their blood pressure was boiling as they muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin.
There can be no doubt that we live in a world of ungrace!
If someone cuts us off in traffic, we call them names.
If we feel someone has wronged us, we take them to court.
Yes, God’s grace is often hard for us to fathom, so Jesus talked to us about it a lot!
Phillip Yancey puts it well in his book: What’s So Amazing About Grace?
“I have meditated enough on Jesus’ stories of grace to let their meaning filter through,” Yancey writes.
“Still each time I confront their astonishing message I realize how thickly the veil of ungrace obscures my view of God.
A housewife jumping up and down in glee over the discovery of a lost coin is not what naturally comes to mind when I think of God.
Yet that is the image Jesus insisted upon.”
A great Jewish scholar has noted that an absolutely new thing Jesus taught about God is that God actually searches for us!
People may have agreed that those who came crawling home to God in self-abasement and prayed for pity might find it; but persons would never have conceived of a God Who went out to search for sinners.
But this is exactly what God does.
God’s love is so radical—so persistent!
Imagine, for a moment, that you are one of the folks gathering around to hear Jesus speak in Luke Chapter 15.
This is basically—paraphrased of course—what you would have heard:
“You are tending sheep in a very dangerous place.
Ninety-nine of your sheep have the good sense not to wander.
One, however, wanders off where it could lose its life to any number of predators.
It could even fall off a cliff.
As a loving shepherd, would you not leave the 99 to find that wandering sheep?
Certainly, you would never give up on it!”
And what might go through the minds of the people in Jesus’ audience?
“Well, no, Jesus. I don’t think I would do that. It just doesn’t make good sense.”
Yet Jesus insists that God will do that and does do that!
God’s love takes risks.
And by worldly standards, God’s love could even be seen as foolish because God is so concerned about these tax collectors and sinners that God will never give up on them.
But that’s one of the differences between God and many of us.
In God’s eyes, each person is so valuable that God is willing to risk 99 for the sake of one.
And God will keep searching until that one is found!
And what about the woman who tears the house apart looking for the lost coin?
She eventually finds it and is so excited that she throws a party for all her friends, family and neighbors.