Monday, November 5, 2007
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Jesus in Luke 19:10)
Do you have a burden for the lost, or have you lost the burden?
I am amazed at a how the post-modern church has left this highly biblical term behind in favor of more culturally sensitive terminology. We talk about the "pre-Christians," "not yet believers" and "seekers." We have come to fear the use of the word lost when describing those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Obviously, this shift in semantics was meant to express a biblical idea in a positive or optimistic manner. The word lost conveys negative images. However, call me old school; if the word lost was good enough for Jesus, shouldn't it be good enough for us?
Now I know that my dogmatic argument is probably not going to convince you of the need to recover this allegedly archaic word, so I better make my case before I lose you.
I would like to suggest that lost is actually a positive word.
In Luke 15, Jesus gives three parables about lost things: the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost (or Prodigal) son.
When the shepherd lost 1 of the 99 sheep, he dropped everything he was doing and went to find that one lost sheep. He did not give up until he located the sheep. When the woman lost 1 of her coins, she stopped what she was doing, lit her lamp and swept the house. She did not give up until she had found the coin. The father never lost hope that his son would return and kept watch for his return day and night.
Each lost thing in these parables was valued highly in the eyes of the one searching for it. In fact, the lost thing was so valued, the "owner" went to great pains to recover it.
If an object - a trinket, a watch, my mobile phone, money or _______ - is valuable to me, I will exhaust every effort to find the missing item. I will even rejoice when I recover the item and share the happy news with someone else. I don't get stressed out about losing something that has no intrinsic value.
So when I say that someone is lost, I am not just talking about their spiritual depravity and I am not trying to be offensive; I am saying that that person is valuable to God and to me. So valuable in fact, that God sent his precious son to die upon a cruel cross for that person's soul.
The terms pre-Christian, not yet believer and seeker just don't say much about the person's value in the eyes of God. In fact, these terms take the focus off of God and place the focus on man. The term lost implies the need for external help in order to be located. (A tip of the hat to any reformed theologians out there.)
In the next post, I will talk about the why is it is so important to help believers in today's church understand what it means to be lost. The future of evangelism depends on us recovering the idea of lostness.