Care for sheep is a multifaceted job involving pursuit and care. When a sheep is lost from the flock, the shepherd takes time to find the sheep. He leaves the flock to pursue the one. When Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep to an audience of tax collectors, sinners, scribes, and Pharisees, the meaning was clear that heaven rejoices over a sinner repenting. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus sends His disciples (us) out to “make disciples of all nations.” We are to find those lost sheep. This pursuit is part of discipleship for every disciple.
Another part of discipleship is providing protection for the sheep from predators. The shepherd does not abandon the sheep when they are in trouble. In John 10:12-13, Jesus criticizes a hired hand for running away at the approach of a wolf. The shepherd did so for two reasons: the sheep weren’t his (v. 12) and he didn’t care about the sheep (v. 13).
Pursuit and Care
These were sheep already in the flock, but so was the sheep in the Luke 15 parable. In other words, Jesus encourages us to pursue and care for the lost as well as those who disconnect from the body. Pursuit without care and care without pursuit are meaningless. Discipleship requires both.
Both take time, and they require sacrifice. Both mean putting the other ahead of ourselves. Keep in mind Paul’s words to the Philippians:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.Philippians 2:3, CSB
Our example is Jesus. His words and life show us how to do this. Without Him, we default into “selfish ambition and conceit.” We choose to adopt 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love for those who are lost and those who drop out:
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.1 Corinthians 13:4-7, CSB
Choose to Pursue and Care
The life Jesus lived was done so with intention. Likewise, it requires intentionality for disciple-makers to pursue and to care. This intentionality means remaining in relationship with our Lord and and with others. Jesus said it this way:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself.Mark 12:20-31a, CSB
At the same time, we must maintain our love for the body of Christ. When relationships are negative within the body of Christ, everyone notices.
I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.John 13:34-35, CSB
Will you choose to pursue and care? People are waiting. The lost and disconnected need pursuit and care. Take time to listen. Meet needs. Invite them to church and to Jesus. Invest in them. Disciple them. Make disciples in all you do!