(…continued) Well, Jesus should have said that sooner. We know that each person is important.
But do we?
A while back I was listening to the Minnesota news on WCCO radio. The first story was that the police were releasing the name of the person whose body was discovered in the trunk of a car. The announcer said it was a kidnap victim who had disappeared a few months ago. My heart sank as I was reminded of the stories of three college students that disappeared in the same week a few years ago, and who were then, one by one, found dead; and also of some highly publicized stories of little children who had been kidnapped. I was reminded of all the interviews with heartbroken family members whose loved ones were gone without a trace, leaving them to wonder what might have happened, or what they might still be suffering at the hands of some evil person. I was imagining the mixed emotions of the family of this latest victim whose body was just identified. They were no doubt relieved to finally have some answers, but very sad to see the last glimmer of hope extinguished. All this was going through my mind as the news report was going on. And then the announcer said that the victim was a drug addict and low-level dealer, probably kidnapped and murdered by a drug lord to whom the victim owed $11,000. Just like that, without even being aware of it, my emotional response changed, as my unconscious attitude became, “So what! It was just another drug dealer.” No longer was I feeling sympathy or sadness.
It was only later that I become aware of what had gone through my mind in the few moments of that newscast. In my mind, I placed very different values on the victims, depending on who I perceived them to be. Apparently, so do most others. Can you guess which kidnappings got the most media coverage? I do not even hear about the drug dealer until the discovery of the body. The media also chose to not care enough to pay attention. We all do this all the time.
Think of the attention that surrounds the death of a popular celebrity. And then think about the hundreds dying every day right now in Syria. We think, “Oh well, people are dying every day all over the world of something or another.” Just like the other morning when I heard the newscast, and thought, “It was just a drug dealer.”
Jesus doesn’t think that way. Jesus looks at that person and he doesn’t see only a drug addict or a drug dealer or whatever he was. What Jesus sees is one of his children who has lost his way. In fact, it seems in many of Jesus’ parables that the main requirement for being found by Jesus is being lost. And there are a lot of lost people in the world. Jesus is teaching us that every one of them, every one who is lost, even if they don’t matter to us, matters to Him.
The apostle Paul knew this as well as anyone. A drug dealer is bad enough, but Paul was worse. Being a drug dealer is not good, but at least there is hope; at least they can turn to Jesus. But Paul was on a mission to do away with that hope. Paul had set out to eliminate the Christian faith, and it was at a time when that was still possible. There were still only a few believers in a hostile culture, and the power of the religious establishment and the state were all on Paul’s side against those few early believers. If Paul would have had his way, he would have eliminated those believers, and therefore the name and the memory of Jesus Christ, from the face of the earth. He describes himself as once being a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” And yet, he said, “I was shown mercy because I was acting in ignorance and unbelief;” adding, “And the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
Then in a wonderful testimony to this loving forgiveness of God that seeks and saves the lost, Paul described what Jesus did for him. In I Timothy 1:15-16 Paul wrote: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance– Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” Paul is saying there that no matter how lost someone is– no matter how lost you are– you need not despair, because if Jesus can find and love and save Paul, he can find and save and save anyone.
The first Sunday Schools were started over 300 years ago in England by a man named Robert Raikes. Raikes, like Paul, had a firm belief in the desire of Jesus to seek and to save the lost. Robert Raikes’ Sunday Schools were for London’s street kids, orphans most of them, who were often forced to live by thievery, and were therefore despised by the rest of society. Many people reacted to Raikes’ Sunday Schools by saying, “Who cares about them? They are just street kids.”
But Raikes cared because he knew Jesus cared, and his Sunday Schools brought salvation to countless children. In time his efforts, along with the work of others, began to change the morals of the entire nation. We should not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit who has promised to work through his Word when it is read and taught.
Every child and every drug dealer and every lost sheep is important to Jesus, and therefore it is important for parents and grandparents and sponsors and teachers and all of us to give everyone the opportunity to know and believe in Jesus.
I Timothy 1:15-16 — Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.