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)
The Christian message is one of good news against the backdrop of bad news. The bad news is that we have become estranged from God who made us and loves us. We want to do our own thing, run our own lives, and so turn our backs on God.
The good news is that God doesn’t leave it at that. He comes after us. He invites us to turn back to him. Like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep he comes looking for us. And the point of this text seems to be that no-one is beyond help or hope: not even those with whom Jesus associated. It seems God has a special soft spot for those who are in the too-hard basket.
None of this makes sin glamorous, or excuses our wrongdoing. We know that we can only be brought back safely to God because of Jesus taking the weight of our guilt on himself. But it does mean that Christianity is not for the respectable and righteous. It is for those who know just how lost they are and who recognise that someone is looking for them.
Christians are those who know just how irretrievably lost they are, and how wonderfully found they are. They face the bad news and so celebrate the good news.