(The following article was published in The Sunday Guardian, Delhi dated May 16, 2010)
Rev Dr Richard Howell
Jesus Christ often speaks of sin and salvation by using the metaphors of being “lost” and “found.” What does it mean to be spiritually lost?
Jesus narrates the parable of a father and his two sons. The lostness of the younger son, who left his father’s house, is clear. His self indulgent and foolish behaviour destroys his life - he lost friends, money and resources and ends up in a pigsty. However, when he returns home, the father celebrates. At this the elder son “became angry” and said to his father, “Look! All these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.” The elder son whined that he never received anything from him to celebrate with his friends “but when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you celebrate.”
The lostness of the elder son is more subtle. Life did not go as he wanted; as a result, he was deeply angry. The elder son believed that since he lived a moral life God owned him a smooth road. His effort was to get the results he wanted. His anger was a prison of his own making.
The second sign of his lostness is reflected by his self-image, which is based on being hard-working, moral, the member of an elite clan, and extremely smart and savvy. This inevitably led to feelings of superiority to those who did not have the same qualities. Lostness leads to a dead end.
Jesus summarised His work as a rescue operation, coming “to seek and save that which is lost.” His mission was to change the inner dynamics of the heart, from one of fear and anger to one of joy, love, and gratitude by His grace.