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Seeking Which Lost?

Seeking Which Lost?

Every time I read the first chapter of Romans, I am amazed once more by the description given of a pagan world that sounds all too familiar in this last decade of the twentieth century. The sinfulness of the Gentiles is depicted in graphic detail, and there is the terse statement repeated three times, God gave them up. Paul then goes on to describe the Jews who had the privilege of knowing the Law of God and were called to live according God’s expectations. They too failed to abide by God’s standards. Paul concludes, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The good news is that God sent his Son to die on a cross and be resurrected as Lord and Christ—Savior for both Jews and Gentiles.
I like the salvation part of the story. It is good to know that I can be justified before God, not by my own performance and good deeds but by the grace of God. Recognizing what we have received makes it easy to appreciate the call to share our story with those who have not yet heard the good news.
Yet, I have this feeling at times that we would like to put some qualifiers on which lost folks we are interested in seeking. It seems much healthier to attract otherwise good people who are in the wrong church than to be interested in those “God gave up to degrading passions.” Most of the people described in Romans 1 seem like they are “beyond help”—folks that I really don’t want to associate with at all, much less invite to my church. There are also those strays—those that left the church or committed some sin that led to them being “run off” by those whose sins were never as obvious or seemingly as bad. It always seems easier to give up on such people than, as Jesus did, leave the 99 in the wilderness so that he could find the one that strayed off. My tendency is to be relieved when such people are actually gone, pronouncing my own “God gave up on them”—as though I were God.
The New Testament repeatedly describes the love of Christ and the love of God reserved for sinners. The very ones “God gave up” on in Romans are the people Jesus died for. If Jesus died for them, who are we to give up on them today? Which lost people are worth our time and attention and which ones are not? Only when we discover again that it was me that God gave up on will we find the heart of the Messiah that came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
John O. York




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