Who are the 99 that Jesus leaves behind? Who is the 1 that He chases after? I worry that we think that once we have accepted Christ as our savior, that we become part of the 99, forever seeking the 1 lost person that needs to find her or his salvation. But is that true? Let’s dig in a bit. Stay with me, and then comment below to let me know what you think.
In Hebrews 13:5 God says, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU, OR ABANDON YOU.”
In John 10:14 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me.”
In Luke 15:4-7 we read the parable of the Lost Sheep. Jesus is speaking to a group of Pharisees who think they are righteous because they maintain the law. They are “religious” but they do not understand that “relationship” with Jesus means more than rule-keeping. Jesus’ conversation with them goes beyond Luke 15, but let’s start there:
Jesus says to them, “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.”
Now go to Luke 18:9 for another passage about the righteous and the sinner:
“Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust: “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
The thing is, if you are a sheep in the Good Shepherd’s flock, you ARE the 1 and not the 99. You aren’t perfect, yet your heart and life are centered on Christ. You do not look on others with disgust, believing you are more worthy of Christ’s love and community than they are. It’s a lifelong journey, and while you are on that journey with your Shepherd, God will never leave you nor forsake you. He knows you, and you know Him. It’s a relationship that started the moment He chose you (Jer 1:5; John 15:16), and will continue throughout this brief human life and for eternity.
So the next time you sing the song Reckless Love (one of my favorites!) remember that you are the 1 that Jesus continues to seek. Nothing can separate you from His love. He will find you, and your salvation is simply the starting point of a beautiful relationship.