Matthew 18 is what I call a HITCHING POST passage in God's Holy Word! It is one of those places that we need to return often as believers in God's Church! Jesus teaches how much He loves and cares for his re birthed followers and how much we are to love and care for our brothers and sisters in the family of God. In the passage we find the Lord views us as "CHILDREN" and that we are to be careful how we deal with each other. We are to RECEIVE each other not REJECT each other. We are to HELP each other and not HINDER each other. We are to PROTECT each other from sin and we are to PROJECT each other to holiness. The chapter goes on to reveal that we are to RESTORE each other and not RAVAGE each other. When we have sinned against a brother or sister or have been sinned against we are to go to each other with the goal of restoring and maintaining fellowship. And we are to FORGIVE each other rather than FIGHT each other.
In all these areas that we are to care for each other we find that the LORD Himself cares for us and is our example to do the same. He cares for us as His children passionately, so much that He says if one mistreat one of His adopted children it were better to be drown in a watery grave. Now that is harsh language intended to show how deep His love is for his family. So we are to love and care just as deeply. His great work in our lives is to bring us out of sin and into His holiness. So as Christians we are to be very careful not to offend one of the little children by leading into sin rather we are to cautiously, carefully considerately help to lead them toward righteousness. And if we don't we are to take heed of the corrections in our lives that may result because of such failure.
In verses 12- 14 the Lord tells the story of a shepherd and of a flock of sheep. One of the sheep wonders away from the flock and the loving shepherd PURSUES the lost sheep. In the context we understand this sheep was already one of the Lord's sheep like children. And because the Lord loves his children so much he passionately pursues in order to bring the little one back into relationship and assure that this little one will NEVER PERISH! What we find in this is the dedication of the GOOD SHEPHERD to HIS SHEEP. OH, how this moves my heart! Because so many times I have wondered and found myself in sin, failure, and out of fellowship with the ONE who loves me most and the ONE who I really do love but have wondered for a season.
The passage does not share why the little sheep has wondered. Perhaps no reason is given because there are countless temptations which lead us to such! Sometimes it happens without us knowing it and at other times we can cop an attitude and stray on purpose. Sometimes it is because of a disappointment that leads to discouragement. The disappointment can be with a fellow believer, a family member, perhaps just a circumstance that no person is attached in any form! But the result is the same, we find ourselves AWAY, AWOL, PRODIGAL, BITTER, BACKSLIDDEN, IN DANGER, GUILTY, MISERABLE, FINDING IT HARD TO GET BACK TO GOD, NOT HEADING TOWARD CHRIST-LIKENESS AND THE FULFILLMENT OF SALVATION.
But the wonderful truth is that CHRIST the GOOD SHEPHERD pursues us in those seasons just as he does when we are safe in the flock. John 10 tells us Jesus is the Good Shepherd that loves His sheep. He will never lose one of his little children. He holds them in His hand and He will see to it that they will return to the flock one way or another. He goes after HIS and HE rescues and restores His own. He has begun something in them and HE will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ! His pursuit is personal and in his divine character are limitless means by which He accomplishes such. One such means is OTHER BELIEVERS! He has chosen, enabled and exhorted His LITTLE CHILDREN TO PURSUE OTHER LITTLE CHILDREN who have left the flock, NO really have left the SHEPHERD! He has called us to just like Himself to seek and shepherd the sheep who have for a season to stray from Jesus.
We are to be Human shepherds who have ourselves experienced ourselves seasons of AWOL and AWAY-NESS! Times of GUILT, BITTERNESS, DANGER, FINDING IT HARD TO GET BACK, BACKSLIDDEN, Those who know what it was like to be pursued by a HEAVENLY SHEPHERD and a UNDER SHEPHERD as well. Little Sheep who have heard from their loving Lord and their Loving Brother/Sister who have helped them return and be restored in the FAMILY FLOCK!
Today you may be aware of someone in the FOREVER FAMILY that needs exhorted, encouraged, reestablished in your friendship. One who needs to be reminded of God's love and yours. Today may be the day to make a few phone calls, send a few notes, invite someone to lunch or dinner. Maybe just a short visit at their door on your way home from work, a text, a message, a prayer sent to heaven on their behalf. We can make a difference. May we follow our Lord's lead, may we care enough to leave our self lives and become selfless for some LOST SHEEP who needs help back to the only safe place on this earth- THE PRESENCE OF JESUS AND THEIR CHURCH FAMILY!
Oh may we be more like Christ!
" A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench"
Help each believer to attempt to make His Church a safe and healing place!
For more study on this very important area of our Christian lives !
Terry has been the Senior Pastor of Liberty for 30 years. He and his wife, Karen, have 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 1 spoiled dog named Cooper.