“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7 NASB)
“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NASB)
Something that I keep forgetting to do with these parables is keep the beginning of this chapter in mind as I’m reading them. The beginning, the setting of the scene, is the difficulty that the “righteous” had with Jesus gadding about with “sinners”. What Jesus wanted is illustrated by the first two parables, and then left hanging in the air in the third. He wants them to rejoice over these that return.
I sometimes find it hard to keep that in mind as I see what gets “caught in the net” of evangelism, or simple human need. What these parables make clear is that when I choose not to rejoice, I’m missing out on what in heaven is an opportunity to party. And the question for myself is why would I do that?
Probably one of the reasons, and I’m guessing there are several, is that I kind of like the setting of “working out my salvation” to be undisturbed. I get how ridiculous that sounds, but I also suspect that I’m not alone, we just dare not speak it (or write it) aloud. Stating the obvious, without being disturbed I will never be pushed to grow in my Christ-likeness.
Another reason that I, perhaps others, fail to party at appropriate times is that I think more in terms of resources and logistics than in terms of a life in need. I’m wondering how I can help this person and am distracted by the limited resources I see. Instead I believe I simply need to come along side with whatever resources I have and let One feeding 5,000 with simple fish sandwiches worry about the resources.
But I think the worst reason, the one that really misses the point of Jesus, replacing it with the point of my culture, is that the goal of myself and the person is life-change. The truth is that the real need is a life patterned after Jesus. Whatever I do should lead that direction. Physical needs sometimes distract people, and are all they can see. Repentance, or a change of mind and heart that permits the Spirit of God access to their lives, isn’t normally the first thing people want when they come to the church. What they want is the stuff of their lives to improve. I get lost trying to connect the one with the other, partly because I don’t think people see me as being much like Jesus.
These are just a few reasons I get distracted from the party over repentance. Perhaps you have others. What do you learn from the party in heaven missing here on earth?