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  • Writer's pictureJim Hays

Seeking the Lost and Wounded

It sure is easy to lose things. Some months back, I pressed the “lock” button on the key fob of my little Honda and walked into the house. I haven’t seen that key since. I’ve looked everywhere. It must be somewhere! Where is it? I know I wouldn’t throw it away. It’s not in the driveway or the flower bed. It’s not under a sofa cushion. It’s gone to the place of lost things … along with countless socks that somehow never made it out of the dryer alive.

I believe the day is coming when I find that lost key. Until then, I keep searching. I don’t give up.

In the second parable of Luke 15, Jesus tells of a woman who loses a coin. The coin represents a day’s pay, so it has considerable value. None of us would stay quiet if our paycheck shorted us a day’s pay, would we? She still has nine coins, but her focus is on the one—the lost one. She is determined to find it.

First, she brings in the light. Even in the middle of the day, houses in first-century Palestine are dark. So, she lights a lamp to help her see.

Second, she sweeps the house. Brooms haven’t been improved upon much since the first century. They are still quite effective at combing large swaths of floor and getting behind and between things.

Third, she doesn’t give up. The ESV says that she searches diligently. The NASB says that she looks carefully. I can picture her on hands and knees looking in, on, around, and behind everything in the house. When the first pass turns up nothing, she combs the house again. And again. And again. Jesus doesn’t tell us how long the woman had to look because that part is irrelevant. She searches until she finds.

Lastly, when the woman finally finds the lost coin, she celebrates and calls on all her neighbors to celebrate with her. “Rejoice with me! I have found my lost coin!”

Jesus comments, “It’s the same way in heaven when one sinner repents.” Angels doing backflips, chest bumps, and high fives. Can you picture it?

Of the three “lost” parables of Luke 15, there’s something different about the one in the middle. The first one is about a lost sheep. The last one is about a lost son. But this one is about a lost coin—an inanimate object. The coin did not lose itself. Someone or something else lost that coin. And since the woman in the story represents God, I know it was not her who caused the coin’s lostness.

Maybe a gust of wind blew it off the counter. Maybe she has a cat who likes to jump up on the table. Somehow, that coin became lost. But it did not lose itself.

Is it possible for people to become lost because of someone or something else? Many people would say no… that’s not possible. And on some level, I agree. Lostness seems to be a choice.

But on another level, I think about the brother who was told by an elder in Bible class, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” The brother left the church and swears he will never go back. Twenty years later, he hasn't.

I think about the sweet girl who grew up in the church promising to save herself for marriage. And she kept that promise to God until… well, until she didn’t. She got pregnant. When the news of the unwanted pregnancy became known to the church members, she was met not with love and compassion and redemption, but with disdain, shame, and ridicule. After leaving home, she left the church and has never been back.

Or what about the children of the preacher who got fired while he was on vacation? A couple of deacons convinced the elders that it was time for the preacher to move on or the church would never grow. On the Sunday the preacher was gone, the deacons announced that the preacher was moving on and the search for a new one had already begun. The preacher and his family were not told until they got back from vacation. Now, some years later, the preacher’s kids have abandoned the church because they’ve seen firsthand how churches operate.

How many in our faith tradition sat through sermon after sermon about the evils of short pants or a kitchen in the church building? Until one day, they said, “If short pants is all this church cares about, then COUNT. ME. OUT.”

So, I ask you again, is it possible for some people to become lost because of the way they’ve been wounded by others? You have an opinion on that and so do I.

But I will say this. There is no way I want to one day stand before God and hear Him tell me that another person had been sent to hell because of something I said or the way I treated that person.

My job is to make disciples, not to wound those who are already disciples.

God sees the lost and wounded among us. He wants ALL of them. And He wants to use us to bring these people into His kingdom. He has saved us! We should be excited and motivated to tell everyone about the Way He has made through the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son.

May we be people willing to light the lamp of Jesus’ love and comb the countryside for those who are lost and wounded. May we search for them diligently. May we never give up. And when we find the one … I pray that we will dance in the end zone like Dion Sanders—because that’s exactly what heaven will be doing.

May we be slow to speak and swift to hear. May we check our judgmental attitudes at the door realizing that we’re just as big a sinner as the next person. All of us need God’s love and compassion.

All of us.

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