A few days ago in central Florida, a five-year old boy went missing late in the afternoon. He was last seen chasing after a dog. Almost immediately hundreds of volunteers along with police and fire rescue personnel began searching for the boy. With darkness setting in it became an all out effort. Fortunately the boy was found safe and sound around midnight almost a mile from home. It was a wonderful ending to the type of story that often has a tragic ending.
The story got me thinking about Luke 15 and Jesus telling three parables about three lost things; a lost coin, a lost sheep, and ironically a lost son. In the story of the lost coin and lost sheep the owners of the lost items conduct and all out frantic search for them. When they are found the owners rejoice and dance and shout with incredible delight. When the lost son returns home, the father throws a party and pulls out all the stops in order to celebrate. Clearly the lost coin, sheep, and son are of immense value. Finding them meant the world to the people who had lost them. Just like the lost little boy in central Florida, no effort was spared because it was potentially a matter of life and death. No one would argue with that kind of laser focused effort or huge expense when life is on the line.
So that got me wondering. Why are we so lackadaisical when it comes to those who may be lost for eternity because they do not know Jesus Christ and are not following Him? I was especially touched by this on the heals of my recent trip to India. I had the honor of spending time with numerous Christians whose lives are dedicated to finding and rescuing lost people. They are living out their faith in the midst of hostile Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists and doing so all in the hope of bringing glory to Jesus by having others come to worship Him.
What a contrast that is to so many of us in the West. We have complete freedom to live out our faith and tell others about Jesus and yet seem so reluctant to do so. I wonder, would we be reluctant to help search for a five-year old who lives next door and went missing? Of course not. Then why are we so reluctant to reach out to those around us who are clearly “lost” from an eternal perspective? I have heard all the answers to this. “I don’t know what to say”. “I might get it wrong”. “Faith is such a private, personal thing”. The excuses go on and on.
I think the real reason is actually rather simple. We do not love Jesus or our neighbor nearly as much as we think we do. If we loved Jesus more, then we would be wanting to tell others about him with every fiber of our being. When you are first in love with someone, all the people around you know without a doubt that you are in love. You can’t help yourself talking about your beloved. You speak of their wonderful qualities and sing their praises to anyone with ears to hear. If we really loved Jesus that would be the same.
If we really loved our neighbors then we would be willing to go out of our way to serve them. That was one of the things I saw so clearly in India. Christians in hostile countries are actually being Christ-like servants to the lost people in their midst. That servant attitude is bringing lost people into a relationship with Jesus. When you love you neighbor as you want to be loved, they want to know why you are the way you are. That is what 1st Peter 3:15 is all about. When they ask, you have an open door to tell them about the love of Jesus. You are not forcing religion down their throat. You are responding to the way the Holy Spirit has opened their hearts to the message of Jesus.
Maybe part of our problem is that we don’t really believe that people are lost and destined to an eternity in Hell. In India, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and a host of other countries from which I spoke to followers of Jesus, they have no doubt that people are lost. Their hearts break for those people and so they pull out all the stops in order to love them into the Kingdom. They also desperately love Jesus and as a result want more and more people to know and love and worship him.
Clearly we are missing something in the west. Have our hearts grown cold? Have we lost our first love? An easy way to answer those questions is to think of how often you pray for people you know to come to faith in Jesus. Think of how often you open your home and show hospitality to someone who does not know Jesus. Think of your response when you hear that someone has come to faith in Jesus. Is it a rather sedate response or do you break forth in celebration like the angels in heaven when they hear the same news? Think of how often your heart breaks when you think of people who do not know the love of God. Do you ever have your heart break? Do you ever really think about those lost people? The answers to those questions will tell you where your heart is.