You’ve probably said it. You’ve most likely thought it. It’s hard to turn it into a compliment.
Telling someone to “get lost” is tantamount to telling them to take a hike. Go away. Get out of here. No one really wants to be told to get lost. It’s a pretty strong statement of rejection.
Actually, no one really ever wants to be lost. Being lost creates anxiety. Being lost is about being confused and uncertain, it’s about being disoriented. We often associate being lost with being afraid.
But when does someone who is lost actually realize they are lost? Are you lost if you don’t know you’re lost? Are you still lost if you don’t think you are lost? Wouldn’t you resent someone who implies you’re lost when you are fairly confident you’re not?
I’ve been thinking lately about the ways we refer to people who aren’t walking with Jesus. You know… they’re “lost.” Poor things! Those of us who feel like we’re walking with Jesus don’t tend to refer to ourselves as being “found,” as much as we prefer to consider ourselves as “saved.” When you’re “saved” you’ve really got something on someone who is “lost.”
In his book, Evangelism Without Additives, Jim Henderson suggests that calling non-believers “lost” is far more harmful than it is helpful. I couldn’t agree with him more. To refer to someone as “lost” is to imply a personal superiority over them that repels far more than it attracts. Saying so strongly implies they should be more like us. Now frankly, I believe they should. But it’s not because of us, but rather because of God. God truly blesses our lives as we reunite with him, and this is the very life he wants to bless them with. It’s about God’s goodness, not our goodness. It’s good to be found!
Henderson suggests using an alternative expression that is far more dignified and personable. Instead of referring to someone as “lost,” what if we instead referred to them as “missed”? “Missed,” as in “these are the ones that Jesus misses most.” Why does Jesus miss them so much? Simply because he created them to be in a relationship with him, but sin, doing what it does, has separated them. This separation simply breaks God’s heart. Why? Because he’s crazy about them! They are very valuable! He can’t stand the thought of losing them.
This reminds me of three short parables that Jesus told in Luke 15. One’s about a sheep, the second’s about a coin, and the third is about a son. What do they all have in common? They each come up missing and they are passionately and persistently sought after because of their inherent value. They are not blamed for going missing and are not chastised for their waywardness. Rather, they are diligently pursued simply because they really matter. When they are found the result is pure joy.
Why does all this matter? It seems to me that we Christians have become way too angry with the people Jesus misses most. We seem upset at them for getting lost in the first place. We are mad at them for the condition they are in. We are ticked over what their values are doing to “our” culture. We are anything but broken over the fact that they are missed by their Father.
And this is why we actually succeed in finding so few of them! It’s hard to convince someone you care when you’re angry with them or condescending toward them. Who would believe you really love them when you seem so infuriated?
What to do? Let’s change the dialogue. Let’s change the tone. Let’s treat the missing with the dignity and honor their Father has for them. Let’s love them with the same passion and intensity God does. Let’s be done with the hostility.
BTW…Where exactly did our love for the missing go? This is what is truly lost!