Doesn’t it mean the world when someone greets you with your name? When they sit with you at the lunch table, ask if you want to hang out over the weekend, or invite you to a gathering? We like these things because we long to be sought out. To not only be known (as discussed in the last post) but also to be pursued by someone who sees something special inside us.
But let’s be real. We each know ourselves better than anyone. Perhaps you see something inside of you that you think is not so special. Something you hide from everybody. Perhaps you have giants that you have been fighting for years, and you are afraid to let down your guard, to say, “No, I’m not okay,” for fear that people will treat you differently. Maybe people have shown you in the past that you are not worth seeking. Maybe you wonder that if something about you was different, then people would seek you out.
If you struggle with any of these things, I understand. I’ve been there. But let me be clear: these are lies. I don’t know that because I’m an expert on fighting them, because I’m not. What I do know is that each of these things goes against the truth of God’s relation to humankind.
The Bible paints a beautiful picture of this in Luke 15. While Jesus was teaching, the tax collectors (a group of people despised among their fellow Jews for their greedy ways) and “sinners” drew near to hear His every word. This aroused the complaints of the Pharisees and scribes, who said among themselves, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” For both Jesus and the Pharisees knew the implications of sharing a meal in this culture: such a thing indicated acceptance and inclusion. In the Pharisees’ minds, nothing could be worse for a religious leader like Jesus than fraternizing with tax collectors and “sinners.”
Jesus did not address their concerns directly. Instead, he responded with a trilogy of related parables, each with individual complexity, but all with a common message: “Oh, it is much worse than that. I don’t just receive sinners. I seek them.” That, in fact, was the very reason He came: “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).
The first of the three is “The Parable of the Lost Sheep” in Luke 15:4-7. “What man of you,” Jesus says, “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?” From the very beginning, it is clear that the lost sheep is valued not merely as a member of the group but as an individual. Not just one in a hundred. One.
Similarly, Jesus not only cares about humanity as a whole. He cares about us individually. As C.S. Lewis wrote in his novel Perelandra,
“He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.”
The second story in this series, “The Parable of the Lost Coin,” follows the same pattern. Something is lost (a coin). There is a search for the lost item, which ends in a public celebration once it is found. And again, there is an emphasis on the change in status: from lost to found.
All of us were lost by default, just like the sheep and the coin in these two stories. Our own effort could not have changed our lost-ness. But from that very first day when Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden, to the day that Jesus was born to a poor girl in Bethlehem, to right this moment, God Himself has been seeking a relationship with us.
There is nothing buried so deep that He cannot see it, but there is also nothing so ugly that will push Him away. He knows us, He receives us, and He seeks us. How wonderful is that?
[The next post will cover the third parable in Luke 15, “The Prodigal Son.” Stay tuned!]
 Barker, Kenneth L., ed. NIV Study Bible. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. Print