From a Paint&Preach in August 2017.
Like most of Jesus’ parables the three stories in Luke 15 not only teach, they also issue a challenge. These stories were told to the religious leaders and the challenge Jesus issues is, “If lost people really matter to God, then lost people should also matter to those who claim to know God.”
The very fact that the religious leaders are criticizing Jesus for spending time with people who desperately needed to experience the love, grace, and mercy of God shows just how far from God they really are. The religious leaders are just as lost as the tax collectors and sinners, they just don’t realize it. This is a tragedy, because in Israel the religious leaders represented God to the people. People formed their impressions of God based on the way church leaders acted. It was true then and its true today. So when these religious leaders treated the sinners like outcasts, the message communicated is, “God doesn’t care about you, because I don’t care about you.”
I wonder how many people think God doesn’t care about them because of the way they’ve been treated by God’s people, or by the way they’ve been treated by the church? No wonder these sinners loved to spend time with Jesus. No wonder they wanted to eat with him and listen to him teach. No wonder! Because for the first time in their lives, someone was telling them, “You matter. You are God’s prized possession and you mean more to him than you will ever know!”
What a blast of good news that must have been to them, and what a blast of good news it ought to be to us too. Because we are all made in the image of God. It is inconsequential what country you come from, what language you speak, if you are an immigrant, refugee, or citizen. It does not matter if you are old or young, if you are fit or not, if you are college-educated or not. It does not matter if you are Jewish, Muslim, or Christian. It does not matter if you are male or female, it does not matter if you are white, black, or brown; you are all made in the image of God and you are loved as God’s precious treasure.
The ground is perfectly level at the foot of the cross, and all of the artificial hierarchies we’ve created to distinguish between “us and them,” between the “insiders and the outsiders” none of that matters to God. When we elevate one group over another; white over black and brown, healthy over sick, rich over poor, educated over uneducated, male over female, Americans over everyone else – none of that matters to God!
God sees right through all of that external noise and God sees each one of us as his precious treasure.
There was a time when we were all lost. There was a time when we were all missing from our Father’s household and there was no way we could get back home on our own. So Jesus our shepherd went into the wilderness looking for us, he starting sweeping the floor trying to find us, he jumped off the porch and ran to embrace us.
Jesus took massive action to come to this earth to seek and save the lost – that’s ALL of us.