There are those on the outside looking in, left out on the fringe. It’s hard to see them when you are comfortably inside the circle. It takes the intention to look beyond the inner circle and see what sits on the outside. Sometimes it means moving outside of your comfort zone to reach out a hand to someone and pull them in. Love does not know boundaries or reason. It often pushes us to do the unreasonable to show that kind of love and build a place of inclusion.
When Jesus was telling the parables of the lost sheep, he spoke of this inclusion that defied reason.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he 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 15:1-7)
How was this parable received to those listening to Jesus? Well, at the time it defied reason. Sheep were one of the highest forms of commodity in biblical times when this parable was shared. So when Jesus said that the one lost sheep was worth the risk to leave the other 99 behind to find it was pure crazy talk. To those listening this act alone was financially risky and definitely not worth risking the 99 to bring back one. Basically the reasonable response to anyone listening would be to cut their losses and preserve their current assets. Jesus used this parable to show that bringing the weakest, loneliest, lost sheep back was worth more than the 99. Our focus should be that of bringing the lost back into a relationship with God and with society.
There are those on the outside looking in, wandering, lost, hurt, alone, or broken who desperately need someone like you to reach out your hand, lift their chin, look them in the eyes and tell them they are not alone and that everything is going to be okay. We have all been there at some point on the outside looking in, and someone restored us and helped us to find love and hope. It’s our turn to extend the same love and encouragement to others. Pray that God opens your eyes to show you those who are feeling left out, lonely, broken, or shunned and for an opportunity to include them.