The task of a Christian, someone who follows Jesus Christ, is to follow in the steps of Jesus. Where do these steps lead? To challenging and offroad tracks, perilous and life-threatening lands, complex and unknown situations, unreached territories and sometimes to death. This could be summarised in the saying of Christ himself: “Take your cross and follow me.”
Why should we do this? Why do we have to choose this kind of life? Why did Jesus take this road, which led to his death?
Jesus left where He was because he knew we were lost. We were lost without a way of returning. We were lost without hope. We did not even know we were lost! So he had to come and rescue us from where we were and bring us back so we could now be where we were supposed to be, in his presence.
The Bible mentions that when one sheep is lost out of a hundred, the shepherd will go and rescue the lost sheep and bring it back. The ninety-nine others could not cover the loss of one sheep. There is one missing, and it has to be recovered and rescued.
Many times, I have heard expressions like: “This is a lost case”, “it’s a lost situation”, “This is a loss of resource and energy”, or “This is a lost soul.” Saying “lost” meant it was too late or difficult to try. When someone uses these expressions, it’s another way of saying, “There is nothing to do” or “It’s not worth trying.” And it’s probably genuine looking closely at these situations. How many times have we seen relationships destroyed without possibilities of repair, couples going through complicated divorces, and so many other relational catastrophes? How many times have we seen lives destroyed, businesses bankrupt, communities failing, believers abandoning the faith and the list goes on? Many of these situations are labelled as “lost cases”.
I am not describing the life of Gentiles but of everyone, including churchgoers and Bible-believing people. We can hardly make any difference, and this is troubling. It’s worrisome to me because this is not what we read from scripture, contrary to the life of Jesus and early believers.
I have observed how people typically don’t want to lose their resources and time with lost cases. It’s the same in all aspects of life. Whenever the situation seems a “lost case”, the usual reaction is to let it go or abandon it. Secondly, I also observed that those who want to help or bring change prefer to invest in situations that are not “lost cases”; they prefer to invest in projects with a great chance of success. They do not want to lose time on projects bound to fail or have already failed beyond repair. I understood that their goal is to prove they have ‘succeeded’. Succeeded in turning a situation around, restored what was broken to a degree, and succeeded in helping out someone who needed help. Investing in potential success cases is more attractive as we get to measure success. I have seen the same in ministry. I have seen the same happening in the lives of ministers and leaders. I have seen the same happening repeatedly in churches and every aspect or realm of life.
When I read the scriptures and read from the words that came out of the mouth of Christ, it challenges me terribly to understand who the ‘lost” really are and why grace is what it is. Let me share these verses with you:“Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham, for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:9-10
“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole do not need the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Mark 2:17
My understanding of someone who is lost is one who lost his ways and cannot return. If he knew his ways, he would not be lost but delayed. The lost cannot find his way back and is facing dire consequences that can lead to death. The lost need someone who is not lost, who knows the way back and is willing to risk his own life to get this lost person and bring him back. Similarly, the one who is sick cannot heal himself but needs somebody else to take care of him and restore him to health. In both verses, Jesus points out that he went out of his comfort to seek and call the lost and the sick. Jesus does not mean those who are semi-lost or semi-sick, but those whose conditions cannot be solved or reversed, those who have been abandoned because there is no solution.
What does that mean to us who are following Christ?
It means we should focus more on those who say there are no solutions. It means we need to go after those who have been wholly abandoned by society. It means that we need to invest in situations that cannot be resolved humanely! It means that our job is to go and find those rejected and ostracised by society. It means that we must be willing to accept all hurt and rejection from the “normal” people for the sake of these lost cases.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that Jesus and the other authors of the Bible never mentioned the limit of who we should help. Nor does the Bible tell us that some are too lucky to be saved! Paul says that where sins abound, grace abounds. Paul says that the more we see people in sin, the more it is an opportunity to display grace as Jesus did for us. The more we can love and forgive just as Jesus loved and forgave us all. However, the truth and the reality is that we are not willing to go for these ‘losers’. We are not willing to suffer or be hurt by these unworthy people who have messed up their lives by themselves! We don’t want them to mess up ours! Jesus came, went to the messed-up and let them mess his life up by dying in the hands of the very people he came to save. What looks like a failure to many is, in fact, true success.
Too many times, I hear people say that if something comes from God, there should not be any problems! Where did that come from? That’s certainly not biblical. It can be philosophical or ‘the right thing’ to do, but this is not biblical or Jesus-like. What’s biblical is to go for the lost, the condemned and the sick (spiritually and physically, too). What is biblical is to go for the emotionally ill and failed, to go for the mentally lost or sick, those who are morally lost or sick, and those who are entirely ignorant of their ways and are living in utter darkness and sin. These are the lost that we have to go for.
Do you know why? It is because we must not go alone but sent by God. Because in helping who we can by ourselves, there is no glory to God. Doing what is humanly possible bears no glory to God. That is why we go after real lost cases! Because it’s about Jesus and his glory. It’s about the salvation grace power of God. It’s about what man cannot do, but God can.
When Peter asked, “Who can be saved?” Jesus replied, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25-26. This is precisely what I am trying to explain. We cannot expect things to change by going in our ways. We must understand that God is interested in situations where men cannot do anything. Then, his glory and power are displayed.
We must break free of this mentality to go for the easy to ensure we have a list of success! For me, failure is when we DO NOT go for the lost. When I hear Christians talking about how they do not want to invest in lost cases or only want to work with those who are not ‘troublesome’, I see this as a failure to live up to the true gospel.
Too many have become weak in faith and understanding, seeking a peaceful, untroubled life without persecution and troubles. Too many are looking for comfort in Christianity; too many are not willing to sacrifice their lives but expect others to sacrifice for them. Too many are lazy and unwilling to endanger themselves for others. Too many are preoccupied with their lives and reluctant to risk anything else. That’s why the world is so lost now and so much darkness surrounds us. We have stopped going after the lost, leaving them to populate and continue in their wrongdoing, in their sins and their corrupted ways. It’s our own doing if so many wrongs are now turning out to be “right” and so many “rights” are now being called wrong. We have remained silent and away from the fight for too long.
While all this is happening, there are cries from the saint, as Leeland sang some time ago:
There are many prodigal sons
On our city streets, they run
Searching for shelter
There are homes broken down
People’s hopes have fallen to the ground
This is an emergency
There are tears from the saints
For the lost and unsaved
We’re crying for them, come back home
We’re crying for them, come back home
And all your children will stretch out their hands
And pick up the crippled man
Father, we will lead them home
Father, we will lead them home
There are schools full of hatred
Even churches have forsaken
Love and mercy
May we see this generation
In its state of desperation
For Your glory
This is an emergency
(Leeland – Tears of the Saints)