While I was overjoyed to spend quality time with this person, my heart was quickly shattered and my spirit was filled with despair as they began to rattle off the details of the unfortunate events that had occurred in their life. I kept a smile on my face to mirror their playful mood, but underneath I was incredibly saddened by what I was hearing. The trouble this person was in was described as merely being a part of life and part of a lifestyle they enjoyed. But I knew that there were only two outcomes of such a lifestyle, prison or death.
My loved one was morally and spiritually lost.
For some time now I have struggled in figuring out how I was to help this person. In my contemplation I was led to the 15th chapter of Luke in which Jesus tells three parables that focus on the lost. The beautiful thing about these passages is the environment Jesus creates. He attracts a crowd where everyone is lost and He creates a space where no judgment is passed (at least not from His end). The crowd consists of tax collectors and sinners who are without religion and spiritually lost, and Pharisees and scribes who are lost in their own self-righteousness.
Parable of the Lost Sheep
Parable of the Lost Coin
Parable of the Prodigal Son
After reading these passages I then had the task of discerning which parable best suited the situation at hand. I first had to come to grips with the fact that I was in some way amongst the lost and that I was not in any position to save anyone. Only God can save someone who is lost. But as a person who has been deemed by his peers to have some kind of pastoral responsibility and as a person who loves this individual, I felt a very strong urge to intervene in their life.
1 Peter 5: 2-3 states, "Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."
In this case I wanted to play the role of the shepherd. I was more than willing to go and find this person and hopefully lead them back to Christ. However, the more I reflected on the conversation we had the more I realized that this could never happen because this person was fully aware of all the decisions they were making. They were not crying out to be saved. They had heard a million times that the path they were on was not a good one and that they needed to change their ways. Nothing I could say would be new to them. It was with that realization that I determined they would need to return home on their own will and in their own time.
As painful as it was, the best thing I could do in that situation was to continue to pray for that person and to create a loving environment similar to the one Jesus created in which that person was always welcome to return.
Throughout the Bible humans are likened to sheep. As fallen creation we have the tendency to wander from God and become lost. Fortunately, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, continuously searching for the lost. As disciples of Christ we must also involve ourselves in this form of ministry. We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:8b that we live in a world where danger looms: "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
We are instructed to watch over God's flock. But, to fully understand the lostness of people we must involve ourselves not only in the search but also in the celebration of repentance and salvation as God has done and illustrated to us through these parables.