What happens when someone in the church falls? Do we ream them, or are we there to help them? Most of the time, people who fall are bludgeoned without mercy. We want to see repentance, and we want to see it now. When it doesn’t come, we dust our hands off and say we tried, then turn our backs. It happens more times than you’d imagine.
But Jesus has a different perspective on how we should act. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. (Matt 18: 12-13)
The one that went astray used to be in the flock. It was missed. The shepherd went out of his way to go find it and bring it back. He didn’t lecture the sheep about being disobedient and deserving to be eaten by wolves.
And after this parable, Jesus talked about the servant who refused to forgive a fellow servant. (Matt 18: 21-35) It doesn’t matter what the person has done. It doesn’t matter if they repent or not. It’s not our job to judge them, it’s our job to love them, for as long as it takes. It may take years of loving and reaching out and offering help. How else will the sheep be brought back? They need to know they are welcome back, without reproach.
Let’s be a loving church. We’ve been forgiven so much ourselves.