In the church we often use the word "lost" as a moniker for those who are not a part of us. Most often, we talk about those outside the church as being the "lost." Of course we also label any person or group of people who don't agree with a certain aspect of our thinking as lost, but mostly it's used to describe non-believers.
Primarily, whenever we want to justify this mindset we bring up Luke 15. The whole chapter. The chapter is composed of three separate, and yet connected, parables.
- The parable of the lost sheep
- The parable of the lost coin
- The parable of the lost son
These stories have large differences:
- 2 are about property, 1 is about family
- 1 is about an animal, 1 is about money, 1 is about a person
- 2 are about the willful act of the being that is lost (sheep, person), while 1 is about the carelessness of the owner and losing the object on their own....of course it could be said the shepherd and father were careless as well....but that'd be stretching
But there are also important similarities, each story involves:
- A something that is once owned
- That same something being lost
- Great rejoicing when the owner finds/is reunited with what was lost
I think of the line in Amazing Grace, "I once was lost by now am found." But it's not really like that, is it? Just think about what the word lost even means. To really be able to lose an object, you need to have had the object at one point...right?
You can't lose something if you never had it in the first place. Whether you owned it, or were merely taking care of it for someone else, it was at one time in your care and it is now lost. It's not "I once was lost by now am found," but rather "I once was found, became lost, and was found again!"
In each parable, that which was lost was at one point owned.
- The shepherd did have 100 sheep before 1 went away and left him with 99.
- The woman did have 10 coins before she lost one and was left with 9.
- The man did have 2 sons before one left to go live his life
These are not the stories of the shepherd who had 100 sheep and then found another and so had 101, or the man who adopted another son to live happily with the two he already had. No, these are stories about losing that which we already had at one point.
We look at these stories and talk about non-believers coming to Christ....when I don't think the stories are about that, at least not entirely.
I see them more as stories about those who once believed in Christ, or who were once involved in the church and have since left, become lost or through carelessness of the owner (as in the woman with the coins) been pushed away.
I see these stories as being about the "once-churched" not the "un-churched."
And yes, I do understand the concept of God "owning" all of us whether we believe in him or not. So really my argument is invalid from that perspective. But that is not the perspective of these parables. From the parable's perspective, each individual owner did not 'own' everything. They simply owned what was individually theirs.
So the questions remain, "Can we lose something that we never had?"
Who are these specific parables actually pointing to? Is this more about the un-churched, or the once-churched?
Or am I way off base about this whole thing?