I went to college before smartphones, apps, and online banking, and I didn’t have e-mail until my junior year, and even then, only because it was a class requirement. There were no automatic, instant transfers into my bank account from home so I had to wait for checks to arrive in the mail. It was not a bad system, though it seems totally foreign compared to how I send money to my college daughter now.
I remember being excited one day as a college freshman because some money (finally!) arrived from home. What does a young college student do with that? I intercepted my girlfriend in the cafeteria line and took her out for pizza, of course. After all, that’s what I wanted the money for — to woo my woman.
In Luke chapter 15:1-10 we read of two lost things being found: a sheep and a coin. One in 100 is lost; the shepherd seeks it out. One in ten is lost; the woman cleans house until she finds it. In both cases, the finders rejoice and call their friends to help them celebrate.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:1-10 (ESV)
Have you ever stopped to think that the celebration could have resulted in the sacrifice of the thing found? “Let’s party! I found my lost sheep. I’ll cook it up; it will be delicious. Bring some potato salad.” “Rejoice with me, for I found my lost coin. Let’s go shopping!” We don’t know that it went that way, but we don’t know that it didn’t either.
Paul was lost, and then was found on the Damascus road. He was not found in order to go back to being a more enlightened, better-behaved Pharisee. Paul’s conversion cost him everything he had worked for up to that point. Far from receiving him with open arms, his former peers in Jerusalem wanted him dead. His own people, the Jews, were largely hostile to him when he became the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Not a dream job for a good Jewish boy like Saul.
We are valuable to God, so much so that he seeks us out and rejoices when we finally allow ourselves to be found. But when we are found, it’s not just so God can give us a pat on the head and a ticket to heaven and then let us go on being lost in the wilderness or under the couch. It’s so we can get back to fulfilling what he created us for in the first place: giving honor to him — even if as a sacrifice.