by Michael E. Brooks
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost’” (Luke 15:4-6).
This week in Bangladesh there was yet another accident of a far too familiar kind. An overloaded passenger launch was hit by a large cargo ship, capsizing and sinking the launch. Of the estimated 250 to 300 passengers, 142 are confirmed dead and about a dozen are still not accounted for.
Such tragedies make headlines and get world-wide attention. We often measure their importance by the number of deaths or injuries which occur, or the huge amount of dollars a disaster may cost. The bigger the numbers are, the bigger the story, and the more attention it receives.
That is understandable and perfectly natural. Large numbers of victims means a greater amount of suffering and a greater need for help. The world’s compassion is greatly welcomed.
That observation, however, makes Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep even more pertinent. From God’s perspective, every victim is a major story, evoking great compassion.
“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
We do not have to be in a massive catastrophe to be noticed and cared about. God sees and goes after just one lost sheep.
In many ways the Christian message may be described as the story of God’s love for just one. He knows when one sparrow falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29).
He is not willing that any (even one) should perish (2 Peter 3:9). When Jesus was nearing his destination of Jerusalem, surrounded by a large crowd and preoccupied with his imminent glorification, he still had time and concern for lowly and unloved Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).
Each of us is a headline in the eyes of our heavenly Father. He knows all that we do. He understands our every need. He cares when we hurt and when we stray from his path. No one weeps on earth without his sympathy (John 11:35).
This Biblical truth also emphasizes the urgency of evangelism and the need for Christians to seek diligently to bring God’s message of salvation to those who need it. James states it emphatically:
“He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
And he will also cause great joy in heaven.