Read Luke 15:1-7
1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (NLT)
When you think about, we only find God when we are utterly lost. We only grasp hope when we have just about given up hope. We don’t get to God by doing right things but by doing wrong things. Sadness more than happiness will see us rush to God. If we figure life is fine without God, we will miss out on him. If we are to be found by the good shepherd we first have to admit we are lost sheep.
It is futile to think that we have to get our acts together before God accepts us. Or to assume that we have to become more or less lovable for God to start loving us. As the old hymn suggests, we come to God just as we are. He has come looking for us, our real imperfect selves, not some plaster-cast model of saintliness.
The God who made us gave us freedom to wander astray from him. His love for us did not curdle into control of us. Rather his love prompted him to give his son to us as the means by which we can come back home to him. He knows we go off into all sorts of dead ends and it is there he reminds us there is in fact a way out, a way home.
The God who comes looking for us is no stern moralist just itching to give us a lecture about how bad we have been. He comes in love to pick us up and bring us to where we belong. He doesn’t seem to mind messy, scruffy, unkempt lost sheep on his shoulders. Our task is not to clean ourselves up but to allow ourselves to be found by him. Just as we are.