Aren’t You Like This?
Yesterday I read a story that I’ve read about a kabillion times, but it hit me in a new way. It was a story Jesus told about a guy who had a hundred sheep and lost one. Actually, it didn’t even really start out as a story… it started out as a question and then sort of morphed into a story later on.
Jesus said, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Now, I’m not a shepherd, but as I read Jesus’ question, I found myself thinking, “Sure. If I had sheep and lost one, I think I’d leave the others and go after it.” Then Jesus started turning the question into a story as He said, “And when he finds it, he joyfully put it on his shoulders and goes home.” When I read that, I started to think, “Yeah… that’s me. I’d do that too…” But then I remembered Banjo and Samson.
My dad used to have this dog named Banjo and he brought him to our apartment once when he stayed with us and Banjo ran away. We chased that dog around a golf course for two hours until he finally let us catch him. When I picked him up, I didn’t “joyfully put him on my shoulders.” In fact, I was mad! I grabbed him, squeezed him and harshly told him, “Don’t you ever do that again.” The same thing happened with our dog Samson once. It didn’t take anywhere near two hours to get him back, but when I got him back, I went off on him for running away like he had any idea what I was talking about.
In Luke 15, tax collectors and “sinners” were gathering around to hear Jesus while the Pharisees and teachers of the law were muttering about Him. It struck me that when it comes to the outrageous love of God, some people gather to it while others mutter about it. Jesus was saying to them, “If your love was put into this situation, wouldn’t you do this? Wouldn’t you drop everything and go after this one?” And I would answer, “Yeah, I think so.” Then Jesus raised the ante by saying, “And then, you’d joyfully put him on your shoulders, right? Aren’t you like that?” And I would have to honestly say, “No… I’m not.” But He didn’t stop there… He went on and took it to an extreme level by saying, “And then, you’d call all your friends and throw a party, right? Isn’t your love like this?” And I’d have to say, “No. It’s not. I think that is ridiculous.” When I found Samson that day, I didn’t fire up the grill, turn on the music and call all my friends. I yelled at a little dog and shamefully brought him back in the house… what a creep.
What started out as a question became a story because Jesus knew what our true answer would be. I think Jesus told this story to say, “I know you’re not like this, but I am. I know your love is not like this, but mine is. It’s outlandish, absurd and over the top. It risks, chases, sings and throws parties.” That’s the love of God and it may not be the love I have, but it’s the love I need.