Senseless Grace

In Luke 15 we find the story of “The Prodigal Son”. This story has become the “grace story” of the Bible. Son asks Dad for inheritance, son leaves home, son spends all his money, son ends up homeless and hungry, son crawls back home, Dad welcomes him back with widely opened arms! Amazing Grace.

On one hand this story makes sense. Which one of us that has children wouldn’t throw open the doors to our children in some way if they lost their way yet wanted to come back home. Especially as humble as this boy was in returning.

There is another story in Luke 15 that illustrates grace much more clearly to me. It is the story of redemptive grace. However it doesn’t make much sense in our world.

Jesus tells the story of a shepherd that has 100 sheep. Yet in the night, one of the sheep slips away and cannot be found. Risking 99 obedient and safe sheep, the Shepherd leaves them in the open country where they could also be lost, or worse, injured and killed.

Why does he leave them? To search for the one sheep that he cannot find. The wayward sheep that didn’t have enough sense to stay within the safety of the group. The adventurous sheep that wanted to see what was on the other side of the hillside. The rebellious sheep that didn’t want to be a part of the herd.

The shepherd risks them all to save the one.

When he finds his little lost sheep he carries it gently home. Then he calls all his friends to tell them to come and celebrate. He throws a party.

What happened to the other 99? We are not told. I have always assumed they were OK. We are not told. It doesn’t matter. The story is in the value of the 1 and not the 99.

The shepherd is very irresponsible from my viewpoint. His decision to chase the one and put the ninety-nine at risk is, on its face, quite uninitelligent. What he does just doesn’t make sense. If the shepherd was my son, he would be scolded for his poor judgment.

Yet Jesus explains his story. He says, “In the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

The heavens are more excited about sinners then saints. Righteousness doesn’t lead the angels to sing.

Revolutionary grace doesn’t makes sense. It is irresponsible. It wreaks of poor judgment. It doesn’t add up!

What it does do is give everything it has to help the lost sheep find its way home.

7 Replies to “Senseless Grace”

  1. Huh. I appear to have tragically miscommunicated. I’m sorry if I came across as suggesting that people who are redeemed to God continue to gorge on their sense of righteousness, growing spiritually fat and lazy in God’s kingdom. That’s not *at all* what I meant. Did it really come across that way?People are still immature after they come to Christ. They still hurt. They still live in a human world. They still have a lot of growing and maturing to do. They need to learn how to live closer and closer to God. There’s *life* in God’s kingdom, and it’s not an instant change to embrace it fully. (If that wasn’t true, for example, the divorce rate among Christians would be considerably lower than it is for the rest of society.) Embracing our freedom and identity in God and helping those who don’t know God to learn what that means and love them in the same way that we’ve experienced it is critical. Reaching out to “the lost sheep” is more than just service. The more we grow in our identity through Christ, the better we are able to share that message with others.That’s the fundamental message I was trying to convey.

  2. hey o’shaughnessy,actally, yeah. that’s really the way it came across and for whatever it’s worth, i still don’t think you get what was being said.if i may be so bold as to ask, how exactly is one supposed to <>“learn how to live closer and closer to God”<> or to <>“grow in your identity through Christ”<>? by going to church on sunday, singing silly songs that only christians get or how about by being “fed the word” by some guy who’s supposed to be special because of his title? if the christian church is based on Christ’s teachings, is this really what He taught?eddie

  3. <>Does our relationship with Christ become strictly an agenda of serving others?<>serving others is a priveledge not an agenda. i am grateful for all that God has done for me in my life and it is my gratitude that inspires me to honor and worship Him by doing what He’s called me to do… to try to be self-less and to serve should be a place where one can be inspired by the teachings of Jesus and be empowered to act on His teachings, but more times than not, i’ve found it to be a place where people go to hide and feel self-righteous.eddie

  4. “The heavens are more excited about sinners then saints. Righteousness doesn’t lead the angels to sing.”Hi, Steve. I don’t think the second conclusion there necessarily follows from the example. It does make sense to me that Heaven would rejoice more over the redemption of an unredeemed soul. There’s a huge difference between being with God and without Him. *Huge*. Degrees of closeness to God all pale by comparison.I don’t think that means it’s unimportant, though. The story doesn’t say anything about what happens to the 99, or about Heaven’s general attitude toward them. We just know it’s relatively much more exciting to see someone new come to God. But righteousness is still so fundamental to who we are in Christ. The point of God’s grace is that it grants us righteousness, and in that gives us the ability to come to God. I’m sure the angels rejoice for righteousness. It’s one of the things that makes our God so worthy of our praise — it must be one of the things that the angels of Heaven fundamentally appreciate from their very core.So yeah, redemption to God is amazing, wonderful, and worthy of celebration. But so is growth within our relationship to Christ. So often I’ve heard teachers say that redemption in Christ, “being saved”, isn’t the final goal, it’s merely the starting gate in our lives. Sometimes I see our community focusing so entirely on that moment, though — chasing the lost sheep, meeting Christ that first time — that I think we tend to forget completely about helping the redeemed grow in maturity, continuing to know more and more about Christ and falling more deeply and more passionately in love with Him. I don’t want to miss out on the richness of a passionate, abandonded, fully devoted life with Christ. I need it. I’m one of the sheep that’s safe in the group, but that’s not enough for me, and I need the shepherd to give me some love after he finds that lost one. I’ll give the lost one some love too. He’s my new sheep-bro!Not sure if I hit the target I was aiming for when I started this rambling, but my point is that we shouldn’t focus so entirely on the lost sheep that we forget there are other ones that still need tending. Don’t want them to get lost too, do we?

  5. <>I<> think that ultimately Jesus was trying to teach us to get past own egos and the boxes we put ourselves and God in, and to just love on people. A lot of that has to happen outside “the church”. Those who know Christ need to go out and just serve people, show them that they’re loved without any other agenda. It can happen inside the church though, too. Just ’cause you’ve decided to start coming to church doesn’t mean you’re done growing. Why can’t a church be a place of healing within as well as a tool to bring healing without? Worship can work both ways as well. Music can be a very effective part of a street ministry. At the same time, it’s a powerful way for us to come into contact with our Creator. We were made to worship Him.I’m not saying we <>shouldn’t<> be out there showing God’s love and God’s grace and God’s power and everything else wonderful about our Creator to everyone who doesn’t know it. Does doing all that necessarily mean that we can’t pursue God for our own growth as well, simply because we want to worship Him in our lives more fully and know Him better — perhaps as a child wants to spend time with his father just because he loves him? Does our relationship with Christ become strictly an agenda of serving others? I don’t know, maybe it does, but I don’t think so right now.

  6. hey steve, love your website as well as this post. i honestly could not have said it better myself!!as for you o’shaughnessy evans, i don’t think steve was refering to saving souls per se but rather, serving the needs of those outside the walls of the church should always be paramount to keeping the people inside of it happy. after all, who needs a doctor, the health or the sick?the way i see it, if you’ve really found God in your life, you should no longer desire to be one of the sheep being fed to the point of obesity but rather, you should be inspired to become a shepard in the field helping to seekout and serve those in need with no other agenda than the fact they are God’s childeren too.but hey, if it makes you feel better about yourself, you can keep going to church, get “fed” and then masturbate your self-righteousness to your hearts content 😉sincerely,eddie

  7. it’s pretty simple I think… what’s more fun for the shepherd? I’s God’s heart engaged with the souls that get their Starbuck’s in the lobby on their way into the singalongs? Or the dude sipping bloody mary’s at the bar reading the Sunday paper.

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