Our Lost and Found Department
By Ed Delph
January 31, 2022
One of my favorite chapters in the Scriptures is Luke 15. There are three stories of loss and recovery, all designed to communicate that no matter how lost one feels in this life, the way for healing is always there. God is waiting, loving, wanting, wishing, and hoping all of us ‘flawsome’ people will someday return. What does ‘flawsome’ mean to God? It’s God knowing our flaws but also knowing we are awesome.
Heaven is a lost and then found department, not just a found department. Jesus didn't come to judge the world; He came to save or rescue us from the world. Jesus says to us, “You are worth dying for.” When we find out how much we are worth to God, we will stop giving discounts. When people hate you for no reason, remember God loves you for no reason.
Check out this short story illustrating ‘flawsome.’
A well-known speaker started his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of over 200 people, he asked a question, "Who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up. He said, "I will give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the $20 bill up. Then he asked, “Who still wants it?” All the hands stayed in the air.
“Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?" All the hands were up in the air. “People, you have all learned a precious lesson. It did not decrease in value. Even though the $20 bill is crumpled up and dirty, it is still worth $20.”
"In our lives, we are often dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. As a result, we feel we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God's eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, to God, you are still priceless.”
Let’s visit our lost and found department in Luke, Chapter 15. First, we see the lost sheep. Next, we see a lost coin. And last, we see a lost son. Notice that I focused on lost-ness. People tend to see the negative side of things. We think in terms of shame and missteps. So, I’m changing it. God believes another way. God sees the found sheep, the found coin, and the found son. They once were lost, but now they’re found.
These three lost-and-found examples were given by Jesus to the assembled Pharisees, who have accused him of dining with ‘sinners.’ The Pharisees weren’t fair, you see. They judged everyone by their behavior. The Pharisees represent religion at its worse. But Jesus came to show us what God thinks of people. The Pharisees knew the ‘sinners’ names but called them by their sin. Jesus knew their sin but called them by their names. Who people are and what they do are two different things.
Jesus uses the example of a man with a hundred sheep. If he lost one of them, he would leave the other ninety-nine to go and find the lost one and rejoice when he found it. Leaving the ninety-nine sheep to find the one sheep seems stupid unless you're the one sheep. Sheep are sometimes dumb, but they are also valuable. So Jesus, overflowing with joy, says, "Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep! Count on it - there’s more joy in heaven over one lost person’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”
Then Jesus tells a story relating to a woman who has ten coins of silver, loses one, lights a candle, and sweeps the house to find the missing coin. She rejoices when she sees the lost coin. Being less visible doesn't make something less valuable. Once again, he draws a parallel with heaven and repentance. Jesus' emphasis is on not giving up on those things – or people – which are feared lost. Lesson: Regaining something valuable, thought to be lost forever, is always a reason to rejoice. The coin, which has significant value to its owner, was lost but now is found.
Lastly, we have a father and two sons. His wayward son strays from his upbringing through living a godless life in a country far away. He loses his inheritance, insults his father's honor, and wrongs his father's love for him. Isn’t it interesting how those who walk away from God move far away from God? Coming to his senses, the wayward son returns to the father.
When the father sees his son returning from some distance away, it’s as if he knew his son would return. The father runs to him, forgives him, and welcomes him back into the fold, celebrating his return with a feast. The father declares, “My son is here, given up for dead, and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!” Lesson: Those who forget God, humble themselves, and then realize how much they need God afterward, will experience a guiltless and glorious homecoming when they return. Why? God's not dead, God’s Dad.
The sheep story addresses a broken relationship with God. The coin addresses a broken identity, part of the woman was missing. The son represents a broken home.
The sheep story addresses spiritual lost-ness. The coin story addresses systematic brokenness in people. Finally, the son's story addresses social pain.
Notice the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in action, addressing these issues, if people let them. The found sheep represents the Good Shepherd, Jesus as the Son who saves. The found coin represents the Good Comforter, the Holy Spirit who reveals and restores. The found son represents the patient Father who loves.
Today, our takeaway is that the God-squad loves us crumpled and dirty $20 bills. In the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and the Pharisees. It's not what you know, but Who you know, that matters in heaven.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com