Jesus had already revealed that the greatest commandments were to love God above all else and to love those around you as you love yourself (Matthew 22:36-44). But in the last moments He shared with the Twelve before His sacrifice, He said one more thing regarding love:
"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" (John 13:34-35).
It went hand-in-hand with the preceding commands. But this one required just a little bit more of them. In the instance that Jesus spoke those words, the disciples did not yet fully comprehend just how vast Jesus’ love was, nor how costly. But as He was stretched out on a cross to pay the debt for our sins, the world could clearly see what the word “love” truly looks like: selfless.
My deepest desire is to be a true disciple of Jesus -- to live a life in total surrender to His perfect will and to show His light and truth in everything I do. But Jesus says I cannot adequately do that unless I love others as He loved.
So that brought me to the question: How exactly does Jesus love?
I am on a quest to discover the true meaning of loving as He loves and to understand how I can show that same love to those around me.
Let’s talk about the 1%.
One percent of anything seems pretty worthless. Well, unless we’re talking about one percent of one billion dollars. But for us peasants, one percent of anything we own is usually not valued as much. If you were to lose one percent of something, you probably wouldn’t sweat it. I mean, you’d still have 99%! There would still be enough left over that you’d hardly notice the amount you lost. Who cares about one measly percent, right? You wouldn’t spend your time searching for what went missing -- it would seem like too much effort for too little reward. You’d probably consider it better to enjoy the ninety-nine and forget about the one.
But Jesus spoke of a totally different perspective about that one percent. He talked about how a shepherd with a flock of 100 sheep will leave 99 just to find one that has strayed (Luke 15:3-7).
You see, a shepherd spends his days caring for, raising, correcting, and training his flock. The well-being of his sheep is what he lives for. He develops a unique, individual relationship with each member. He values them all highly. Losing one would hurt just as much as losing them all in the Shepherd’s eyes.
It may seem radical and somewhat foolish to leave the majority to bring back one that was careless enough to wander away from the safety of its home. But the shepherd knows that within the sheepfold, the rest are kept hidden from harm, whereas the lost sheep faces great danger outside the borders. To the shepherd, it’s worthwhile to seek out the one sheep because he loves it too much to let it be hurt or to stay lost.
God is our shepherd; we are His sheep (Ezekiel 34:11-16). It’s no surprise that the Lord would show mercy to us when we seek forgiveness. But He goes far beyond that. He is our Shepherd who goes out of His way to tenderly search out every lost soul who has left His side in order to try to bring them back to where they belong. And then He joyfully forgives them. He rejoices with ALL OF HEAVEN over the return of just ONE person! What an incredible, loving God!
How comforting to know the depths of God’s love for us! How reassuring to know that He will never waver in His mercy!
But what about me? What about you, friend? How are we loving that one percent?
In most things, we often take the easier route and reach for what is convenient. We have convinced ourselves that missing a small percent is insignificant as long as we still have the large percent with us. We tend to prefer to rejoice over what we have managed to retain instead of doing all that we can to seek out that which is lost. We like to think that we have attained a level of success for keeping 99% safe, and we eventually forget about the 1% that has left because we don’t like to dwell on our losses. And truthfully, we don’t particularly like putting in effort without the guarantee of a victorious ending.
But oh, that we would have a heart for people like our Savior does! He’s not satisfied with anything less than 100%. He’s always reaching for us, always calling out to us. He will chase after one in the darkness and wilderness for as long as it takes. He reaches for every single lost person, desperately trying to bring His beloved sheep back into the safety of His perfect love for as long as it takes. And He does this without hesitation and without a guarantee of us returning to Him. There’s nothing He wouldn’t do for his sheep, and no lengths He wouldn’t go to to see just one lost soul find salvation again.
Can we say we have the same love for the lost? Can we say that we are truly putting all our effort into reaching for the one percent -- no matter how long or inconvenient of a task it may be? How can we be more like shepherds today?
And to my friends who may relate more to the lost sheep in this season of your life … Oh, friend, I have been there, too! But just read again how great His love is for you. Read again how far He will go to find you. And then read it again. And again. Read it until it really sinks in. And then reach your hand out to Him and allow Him to lead you back to the safety of His arms. And please know that I and so many others want to walk along with you on this journey in knowing the Lord. And we want to love you through every moment of it.
We’re in this together, you and me.