So what do you think? What do you picture in your mind when you hear “The Hopelessly Lost”? People with tattoos or motorcycles or unusual clothes and hair? They probably wouldn’t really be on very many lists. (But to be honest, I do see some of them still popping up unexpectedly in my own thoughts.) There just has to be someone though, right? Maybe a meth addict who is just a shadow of who they once were? Maybe a ragged homeless person with an empty gaze? Maybe a passed out alcoholic? Surely there have to be somebody who we could call one of “The Hopelessly Lost.”
Maybe we need to understand how we are using the word “Lost.” There is the “Amazing Grace” kind of “Lost” like a ship on the sea, not knowing where to go. There is the “Jesus Parables” kind of “Lost” like with something loved, wanted, and valued as in Luke Chapter 15. Nowhere is there a completely and bizarrely different “Lost” based on outward appearance the way that Laura is using this word. Nowhere is the situation described as “Hopeless.”
Yet how many people choose not to attend church because they will be judged by their outward appearance?
I have always thought of myself as just a very ordinary average looking guy in the crowd, yet I remember once visiting a large church where I was the only man there with a beard. No one even had a mustache! No facial hair at all. I had the white shirt, tie, and King James Bible, but I was not clean shaven. I felt really awkward, like all eyes were on me to say “You don’t belong here.” Yet nobody said a word to me. No greeting. Nothing. So I can begin to imagine what someone with a non-traditional or non-conservative appearance might be feeling before stepping through the door at some churches!
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB)
So only God can see what really matters, the heart. If we are to see the heart at all, I think it is only what He chooses to let us see, and then only those things that will move us with compassion and love, not criticism.
If you hesitate or avoid going to church because there might be some Tidy List Makers there, please remember this. It’s NOT their church. It belongs to Jesus. He paid for it with His own blood. (Acts 20:28) I really do believe He’s saying to you just like He said to me, “You just get yourself in there, and you sit anywhere in there that you want. Just don’t scare the kids.” (A white shirt and tie can be very scary when everyone else has on polo shirts, cargo shorts, and flip flops.)
What should we see when we look at that meth addict, that passed out alcoholic, that homeless ragged person? I believe we are to see the image of God Himself in all people, even in someone who might be mislabeled “The Hopelessly Lost.”
What if the farther we push ourselves away from anyone with a label like “The Hopelessly Lost,” the farther we push ourselves away from God?