Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

Luke 15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the Scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

My Thoughts

As an engineer and former businessman, one of the first things that struck me about this parable was the math: the fraction of 1/100, or the percentage of 1%, or the ratio of 1:100.  In engineering and in business, you generally don't worry about the lost 1%. If you're 99% correct, that's awesome; that's Six-Sigma quality!  And generally speaking, being 80% correct is acceptable; it's called the 80/20 rule or the 80% solution.

Imagine if you were a shepherd; would you risk your 99 sheep to go after 1 lost sheep? I wouldn't! It's not worth your time, money, or the risk to your remaining herd of 99 sheep. With all the predators that try to kill your sheep every day, you'd expect a certain amount of loss. Not only that, domestic sheep are dumb animals and will often get themselves into trouble by wondering away from the herd. Isaiah 53:6 says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have each turned to our own way." (An interesting book to read on is "A Shepard Looks at Psalm 23" by W. Phillip Keller.)

So Jesus, as the good Shepherd, turns conventional wisdom on its head and leaves the 99 to go after the 1 sheep that was lost.  The 100 sheep could represent all of mankind, and the 1 sheep could represent each one of us.  2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."  God simply doesn't give up on us.

Over my 30 year career, I've come to realize that one key to success with the 99 is in how we treat the 1. When I worked in field service, there was always 1 customer, 1 colleague, 1 sales-rep, or 1 manager every week who'd try my patience and behave badly towards me. No matter how hard I tried to please them, it was never enough. But I strived to always take the high-road rather than lowering myself to their level of bad behavior. Over time (exactly 18 years in my case), I think the 99 noticed my patience and long-suffering with these difficult customers, colleagues, sales-reps, or managers and came to respect me even more as a man of patience and personal integrity. (Ironically, by the time I resigned from PHILPS my customer satisfaction rate was 99%.) How we treat the 1 really does matter to the 99.

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