I Once Was Lost
First, let’s clear the air on some stuff:
The words repentance and sin are points of trauma for many of us. But, let me clear the air, here. In Greek, these words work much differently than the various ways American Christianiy has used them against us like weapons to bludgeon us with. Repent in Koine Greek, simply means “to turn” or to “change course, or one’s mind.” A needed change is implicit, but more in a directional sense than in a condemnatory/urgent sense. In addition, the Greek word for “sin”, hamartia, is also directional and literally means “to miss the mark.” Again, missing a mark is directional.
Look at this parable we just read. Being lost is a directional state and we can therefore liken it to being misdirected. Or incorrectly aligned or directed. The parable also states in the literal translation that Jesus welcomes and receives sinners ‘into his home.’ Notice that this is in contrast to the Temple leaders, and we can liken that to the modern Church.
It’s incredibly interesting and something of note that when Jesus finds the lost sheep, he describes carrying it on his shoulders to a giant party where everyone can celebrate together. And it’s clearly noted, earlier in this selection that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law are one of the causes of people becoming misguided. Jesus is not directing anyone who is “lost” to go back to the Temple or to the Church. He is directing them to himself––to a new sanctuary in Him––to a new Creation and restorative and inclusive community filled with hope.
I am in my second week of seminary and just started my Presbyterian Polity course. My professor said something interesting to us that really resonated with me. He said, “The Gospels do not say, ‘For God so loved the Church that they gave their only begotten son. It says, ``For God so loved the world that they gave.”
And while reading this section of Scripture I was taken aback by something: the amount of time Jesus spends in the Temple (or Church) and the amount of time he spends with folks outside of the Church. What’s more, is he spends an incredible amount of time with folks considered to be socially deplorable by the Church and the government. Jesus was an expert in the Law, a teacher, and a Rabbi. We would think that he would spend more time in the confines of the Temple then where he actually did. Wouldn’t he have wanted to spend time in community with people who were like him in a clerical and rabbinic sense? Most of the interaction we see regarding Jesus and the Church at the time, was negative. They did not like him. He disrupted things and spent time teaching things that allegedly broke Torah Laws. He crossed boundaries that in Jewish tradition, should not be crossed. But he didn’t come for those already attending Church or Temple.
Jesus chose something else quite dramatic. He hung out with sex workers, Gentiles, women, the disabled, the poor, and the outcast, the ethnically different; those on the fringes and the margins of society; those not in positions of honor, stature, or power. What’s more is he had relationships with them by spending quality time with them.
The reason why he does this is because those are HIS people. Those were God’s chosen children––the ones who felt unwanted, who felt isolated, who felt condemned by God. God chose to be with and go to the Lost. Jesus wasn’t sent to hang out in a Temple with Church folk. He was sent to people outside of that space.
Have you ever felt unwanted? I think we all have. This feeling is universal and can be caused and perpetuated by a number of factors. It’s one thing to feel unwanted by humans, but it’s another, more deeply cutting feeling to think we are unwanted by God.
I used to feel this way for a long time when I had internalized homophobia. I felt doubly unwanted by humans, the Church, and God. I felt rejected, cast out, and condemned. I felt unwelcome, especially at Church. So, I left. I did not expect God to come and look for me.
My story in the Church––belonging. Feeling like we don’t belong in certain communities.
In sum, Jesus seeks after you. Jesus desires you. This is not to say that God is not present in churches. Surely God is present there, but God’s active responsive and deepest desire is you wherever you are at. NOT JUST WHEN YOU ARE IN THE CHURCH. Just because someone lands in a church does not mean they are not lost in the sense of grasping Jesus’ teachings. Indeed, they can be more lost than the sex worker, the disabled, the Queer, the poor, etc. Because these are the demographics of people––people like you and I, who most clearly hear the voice of Jesus.
Grace and peach,
Co-Executive Director, Brave Commons