What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Matthew 18:12-14

By Marie Swope

Jesus’s ability to tell stories or parables that have multiple meanings is beyond genius. In Matthew 18:12-14 Jesus tells the parable of a man who having 100 sheep loses one. Because of his loss the man leaves the 99 sheep to seek the one that has strayed. And Jesus promises if the man should find the lost sheep he will rejoice over that found sheep, even more than the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

The parable of the lost sheep has the obvious theme of reconciliation for the lost sinner who repents and is restored, but is there more?  As a Preschool Teacher, Community Advocate, and Juvenile Detention Superintendent I have cared for groups of children and teens. The best way I knew to keep them safe was to periodically count them all to make sure each one was present, accounted for, and included. How did the shepherd realize he had lost one of his flock? The only way is if he counted them.

God loves us and because of Jesus, counts each one of us individually. We each have our own value and worth. There are no marginalized people or groups within God’s kingdom, everyone counts. Should anyone of us wander from the flock there will be great rejoicing whenever that which was lost is restored!!  Rest in that love and know that it comes with responsibility.

Amy-Jill Levine ask in her book, Short Stories by Jesus, “Do we know what –  or whom- we have lost? Do we count what – or who- is present? And will we make an effort to find what  – or whom- we’ve lost? The only way to know the answer to these questions is to take the time to count, knowing everyone matters and it all counts. Then let us greatly rejoice should we realize there is someone or something missing in our lives and we restore that which was lost.