“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?” (Matthew 18:12)
Here Jesus explains an important principle in the Kingdom of Heaven — and one that you & I should be very glad about: it is the principle of God’s love for the individual. Christianity is not a “pragmatic” philosophy, which is merely about “doing the best for the most”. Rather it is about a God who shows extravagant love for an individual — even an individual who is unworthy and who has gone astray.
In this story, Jesus describes a shepherd who will leave the 99 sheep on the mountain, to go and search for the one who was lost. A pragmatic person might consider that merely ONE who was lost, does not begin to compare with the safety of the 99. Just “write him off”, and take care of the larger group. But that is not what Jesus commends here. Instead He says “it is not the will of Your Father who is in heaven that ONE of these little ones perish” (:14). This is a radical love. God doesn’t merely love “the world”; the larger group. He loves the individual. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 that He “loved ME, and gave Himself for ME.” This means a couple of things for us:
First, we should appreciate the amazing love that God has for us. It is not just that He loves “the world”, but that He loves YOU, personally and individually. He would leave the group on the mountain to go and search and find and save YOU! Stand amazed, and savor that love — and gratefully return it!
This also gives some direction to our ministry as well. Don’t merely focus on “the crowds.” Realize that even a crowd is just a group of individual “ones”. Ask God to help you demonstrate radical and personal love for some “one” for whom you can make a difference. Go after that one — like God would do, and indeed what He HAS done, for you!