A friend and I have been talking about our journey through belief (and disbelief) and what it means to be within or without an old community. What it means to be lost.
When a child is lost from their parent it’s not as if they no longer belong to a family. Being lost is temporarily being unseen. And when that child is reunited with their family, it’s not as if they have limitations and expectations and interrogations into how or if they’ll be allowed back. They’re warmly received because they’re reunited. They’re home again.
For those who do (or did) follow Jesus, I feel many consider those who are “lost” as strangers, outsiders, refugees; not one who already belongs, not a child of their own family.
Jesus talked about people being lost, like a sheep lost from it’s herd. But today most of us have no context for what it means to tend to sheep, or what a does, or even the basics but of farming, especially what it means thousands of years ago compared to today. I think the metaphor is easily ignored and misunderstood.
I don’t think Jesus is saying that being found is dependent upon the use or merit or worth of the sheep to the shepherd. Or that our worth is only measured by our beliefs or gender or race or origin. I believe Jesus intended the herd to represent all of creation, all of humanity. Everyone is already a member. There are no requirements for their acceptance into the herd. In fact, there acceptance has nothing to do with you at all, because your aren’t the shepherd.
We are all — every human — at times divided and rejected and invisible, and at times united and accepted and known. We are children of a place and of a home.