Ninety-nine and one

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:12-14

I’ve been thinking of the ninety-nine and the one recently. I think I’m surrounded by “ones”.

“One” in this passage refers to a metaphoric lost sheep, but I realize that when we talk about what that refers to — namely people who have left the fellowship of God — it doesn’t necessarily mean they are physically alone. They are often surrounded by others. They’re around people all the time, flanked by thousands of other college students on their campuses, driving on highways filled with hundreds and thousands of cars, displayed on facebooks and myspaces and whatnot, with links to hundreds of “friends”. Jacked-in, hooked-up, on-line, instant-messaged, blogging, chatting, texting . . . yet still alone, still floundering, still lost. I know a lot of college students who I suspect are here, and have talked to a couple of them recently. They are, for whatever reason, “away”. And though they may not be able to put their finger on it, they are waiting; waiting for someone to cut through the noise and alienation of modern life and to reach out to them with the love, the firmness, the solidity, the reality of the Lord. They are waiting to be convinced of his love again, to be convicted of their sin again, to not just feel, but to know his presence that transcends feelings and emotions; to possess a knowledge that, in fact, can thrive quite well in the absence of such sensations, free and clear.

They are waiting for a new heartbeat and life in the blood and a cleansing wash and forgiveness and purpose and truth and solid rock underneath their feet.

We need to go get them. I don’t know any way to do that other than one at a time.

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