By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
What do the religions of the world have in common? They all attempt to pursue and appease their gods, who have distanced themselves from humanity. That is a key difference between these religions and the Christian faith. Christianity is the only faith in which the one true God reaches out to humanity. He pursues and seeks us out; we are the ones who are lost—not God.
We can rejoice not only because God seeks us out, but also because we can know our Creator personally and have a thriving, fulfilling relationship with Him. We can talk to Him as we would a close friend. We can know the very heart of our true God. In essence, Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship.
In the Gospels, we see Jesus conveying this message over and over again. At the beginning of Luke 15, we see the religious leaders murmuring against Jesus: “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them’” (Luke 15:2). The Pharisees considered anyone who admitted his need for God’s forgiveness to be ignorant and weak. Though they studied the Scriptures, they were far from knowing and comprehending the heart of God.
Jesus was not intimidated by the Pharisees’ intellectual arrogance or elitist attitude toward faith. He responded to their muttering by telling the parable of the lost sheep:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them,” Jesus said. “Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’” (Luke 15:4-6).
Can you imagine how these powerful leaders reacted to being compared to a simple shepherd? They would never lower themselves to laboring through the muddy hills. Instead, they would chastise the hired shepherds and order them to search for the sheep.
In Ezekiel 34, the shepherds of Israel—the religious leaders—angered God because they kept the food of God’s Word for themselves instead of spiritually feeding their flocks. God warned them, “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (v. 2).
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were shepherding the same way. Yet our God does the searching for His lost sheep and rejoices when He has found one.
Prayer: Father, thank You for pursuing me when I was lost in sin. Thank You for being an intimate and loving God. Amen.
“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” (Matthew 18:12).