What the Context? Leave the 99.


 

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost." Matthew 18:10-14
This was a piece of scripture I heard, quite often, in Sunday School. It was fun to act out as one child would become the "lost sheep" and we would have to figure out where they were hiding. Or, another version was we would have to guess who was missing. Then, we would get the handout or coloring page to take home with the story printed on it. Often times, my sheep were all sorts of colors and Jesus always had some added facial hair. 

As an adult, this piece of scripture is so meaningful to me. Whenever I hear it, I'm in awe of how loving Jesus is as He declares that He would go after one of His children should they wander off. At the same time, there is a line in that scripture that tells how the other 99 should be. In verse 13, he says "he is happier about the one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off."  What that tells me is that, if we are part of that 99, we don't get to gloat about not wandering off. We get to rejoice with our Good Shepherd that one of our own was found and brought back into the fold. 

So, what about this verse has me including it in the "What the Context" series? Well, it is a verse I have seen on social media being used for black lives matter posts. 

Let me just express something right now - I am fully aware that saying a phrase like "all lives matter" can be a trigger for some and not in a good way. Rightfully so since it has been used in not the best way. But, I say it because I truly believe we ALL matter to God. We are His beautiful creation. No matter the color of our skin, or ethnicity, we all matter to Him. None of us is greater than the other. In fact, scripture says this: 
For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:16-17 (emphasis mine)

Nowhere in that scripture does it clarify skin color or ethnicity. This gift is for everyone and we all should be treated equally. Another thing to get off my chest is this - I fully understand that people will defend the phrase "black lives matter" because they feel that black people are under more persecution lately. That would be an entirely different blog post concerning racism, etc. but, I will tell you that I am fully aware racism is real. I also realize there are many successful people of color who are contributing, in a positive way, to their communities, cities, world, etc. 

So, back to the scripture and context. As I was scrolling social media, the other day, I saw multiple posts defending "black lives matter" by using the Parable of the Lost Sheep. They used it to support the narrative that, just like Jesus went back for the one lost sheep, we should also understand that black lives matter. 

Wait. 

My immediate response to this is, "are you saying black lives are lost and wandering???" Because I don't think that's true. And I for sure think this scripture is being used in a very twisted way that proves how misunderstood it is. 

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is found in two of the Gospels - Matthew and Luke. In Matthew, it is immediately following when Jesus is explaining who the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven is. In Matthew 18:4, Jesus reveals who the greatest is - those who humble themselves like this child. He goes on, in the following verses, to say that those who welcome a child welcome Him. Then, He gets into some difficult directions like cutting off your hand or gauging your eye out if they cause you to sin. In verse 10, Jesus continues to tell the group to not look down on little ones because their angels are watching over them. After that, He launches into the Parable. 

In Matthew, Jesus is speaking to believers when He shares this parable. 

In Luke 15, Jesus is sharing this Parable with tax collectors, sinners and Pharisees. Let's read how Jesus relates it to the unbelievers in this book:

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" Luke 15:4-7

Jesus shared this after the Pharisees grumbled about Jesus including sinners to eat with him. So, I can see why this piece of scripture could be twisted to apply to including people of different skin colors. However, if it is used within context, it is actually degrading to people of color. Because that lost sheep is a sinner and lost. Are black people lost? I know people of various skin color who would be considered lost but, I would never say one skin color is lost. Which, by using this Parable, is what we would be saying.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is an illustration of a lost family member returning to the fold. Someone who has gone off, gotten lost, wandered, living in sin, and then returning home in repentance and as a believer in Jesus.  We see another example of this story in the Parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15:11-32

This Parable has nothing to do with race, differences, diversity, being inclusive or equality. It does have everything to do with sinners and those who have strayed. We rejoice when people give their lives to Jesus and live a life glorifying Him in daily worship. That is what this is about. Jesus searches for those who have wandered because that is how much He loves His children. How beautiful is that? 

So, what would be a better scripture to use to say "black lives matter" and that we, as a society, need to table the phrase "all lives matter" to focus on our black brothers and sisters? Well, as we look through scripture, we see verses that God is a God of welcoming all lives. I shared the well known verses out of John 3 at the beginning of this post and there are so much more. 

First, let's get it straight that we are all sinners. Not one of us is better than the other. Romans 3:22-24 says, "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Emphasis mine.)

No one is better. There is no difference. All of us are sinners in need of a Savior. 

Romans 2:11 says, "For God does not show favoritism." The context of this verse is in regards to judgement. For those who "by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality" (verse 7), it won't matter if they are Jew or Gentile, there will be "glory, honor and peace for everyone" (verse 10). 

Galatians 3:26-29 has some beautiful things to say that transcends ethnic, social and gender distinctions.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. 

1 Corinthians 12:13 says, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 

You can also read more beautiful words in Ephesians 2:11-22 about being one in Christ.  

What can be concluded from all this? While I have no idea what Jesus would actually say if He were on earth right now, I have a good feeling about a vision I received of what it could look like. Picture this with me please (and please take it to the Lord in prayer and His word...don't just receive it because I am sharing it):

We are at a city hall building. There are two, or three, groups of people. Some with their black lives matter posters, some with their police lives matter posters and some with their all lives matter posters. Jesus walks through the crowd and takes a seat on the steps that lead to the front doors of the building. Soon, there is a hush in the crowd as they realize who is sitting in front of them - the Savior of the world. Messiah. Yahweh. Wonderful Counselor. Emmanuel. The Alpha and Omega. There are still some random shouts from the back of each group but, for the most part, all eyes are on Jesus. He begins to share Parables about how we are all sinners in need of a Savior. There is no American, Canadian, Mexican or African. No black. No white. No brown. No male or female. We are all one in Christ Jesus who, once we give our lives to Him, are welcomed with open arms and should live in unity. 

Everyone has the same access to Jesus and the mercy, grace, and perfect love He offers to all his children. It is suddenly no longer an issue about skin color. It becomes an issue over life. Abundant life. Eternal life with Jesus. It becomes about all of us having the same access to the Holy Spirit. 

In my vision, I see posters being put down and voices being lifted in worship to Jesus. Some holding hands or putting arms over shoulders. Tears of joy and reconciliation stream down some cheeks. There are still shouts in the background but, for those whose eyes are fixed on Jesus, all they know is that HE is the only One that matters. JESUS Matters. And He would leave the ninety-nine to come after any of His children who have wandered. He would welcome back the prodigal son or daughter and there would be much rejoicing. 

This isn't a skin color issue. This is a heart and salvation issue my friends. Turn your eyes to what really matters - JESUS. 

 

Comments

Popular Posts