The parable of the Lost Sheep is one of my favorites. You’re probably very familiar with it, too. In it, Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to go find the one who got lost. That’s a lovely picture of Jesus’ concern for all of us when we’ve strayed off the path, but there’s a lot more to it, too.
The Good Shepherd finds the sheep. There’s nothing in the parable about Jesus scolding the sheep for getting lost, or chastising it for not keeping up. He simply picks it up and carries it home.
I run across people frequently who think that they don’t need other people to advance in their lives with Christ. They don’t participate in Bible studies, hardly gather for worship, and don’t pursue friendships. They have a belief that all they need is Jesus, so having people in their lives would just be a waste of time. That way of thinking can’t be validated in Scripture – in fact, the parable of the Lost Sheep directly contradicts that thinking.
In the parable, the Good Shepherd knows that the sheep is best off among the flock. If Jesus wanted to say that isolation is good, the Shepherd would have built a little hut, set up housekeeping with the lamb and begun their life of seclusion. But that’s not what He did! He picked the lamb up, carried him back to the group, and deposited him among the others. Jesus preferred that the lamb live in community forever – not in seclusion! Similarly, Jesus’ desire is that we live in community with other believers and not in seclusion! It’s amazing to think that anything could be better than an isolated hut with just me and Jesus, but He says that there is! I’m better off with Jesus and a whole flock of other sheep!
We need to remember this when we’re feeling the desire to retreat from fellowship. We need to schedule time for friends and get-togethers around the Word, and maybe a weekend get-away with other believers. God has created each of us to function as a member of his body, not as a lone Christian who believes that all he needs is Jesus! There’s more to be had and blessings to be found in the input and closeness of other believers! We are all sheep who live in a flock, and Jesus wants it that way.