Read Scripture: Matthew 18:12-14; John 6:35-40; Luke 5:8-11; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; Psalm 23:6; Revelation 3:20; 2 Peter 3:8-9
In the first sentence of the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus asks a question. What would the caretaker of the sheep do? My guess is that Jesus turned it into a question on purpose.
I think the way we answer this question reveals what we believe to be true about God. I also believe that the way we answer this question may evolve over time as our understanding of God does the same. Jesus uses this story as a way to point us toward God’s true character and His desires for us.
Jesus told us the truth right here in the story. God desires to have each of us at home and wrapped safely in His love, and our absence is instantly palpable to God. (I’m also convinced that only God could immediately tell the difference between 99 and 100 sheep!)
We’ve been given the ability to choose whether we wander off or come home. We know from the teachings of Jesus that sometimes the only reason we choose not to return home is because of our own misunderstandings about our Father’s character. If we knew and fully understood the truth about God’s love, I can’t imagine that any of us would ever choose to turn away.
But there are so many obstacles that keep people at an unfamiliar distance from God, even if we desire to be at home with Him. Many, if not all, of these obstacles are borne of deception. When we look at all of the reasons that keep us from our spiritual home with God, they typically boil down to shame, pain, unbelief, foolishness, confusion, and fear. Any of these forces could be leading us to inadvertently wander off every time we leave church each weekend just after we’ve basked in a wonderful experience of God’s love.
God is ever-present, and so if we don’t feel His presence in our lives, that’s our indicator that we’ve wandered off. As soon as we realize and overcome the forces that keep us at a distance from God’s love, He rejoices. Because the only thing greater than love is mutual love. This is why God gives us our own choice. Love is exponentially more powerful when it’s shared. He wants us to experience the power of love that is shared mutually.
If you desire more of His love but you can feel in your heart that you’re not always mutually there, turn it into your prayer. Let these simple prayers serve as inspiration:
- God, help me with my unbelief.
- God, help me to let go of my assumptions about your judgement of me.
- God, help me navigate my pain and feelings of betrayal.
- God, I desire to experience your grace.
- God, deliver me from evil.
- God, expose the deception that I have accepted as truth.
- God, what do I do next?
- God, help me want to be close to you.
- God, why did this happen?
God will never reject us. He is always simultaneously pursuing us and waiting patiently at the door for us to come knocking. Jesus is challenging us right now to examine what we believe to be true about God’s love. Does it line up with the character of God as Jesus describes?