Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:4-7
There is no shortage of villainy in our world. If you have any doubts, just turn on your television. You will find it featured in the nightly news, fancifully depicted in fiction of all genres, and celebrated in “reality” shows. Of course, villains are not just on the screen. They are in the office down the hall. They are in your neighborhood and your church. Sometimes they even reside at your house.
You can spot the villains in any story. They are the ones who took something for a small, passing advantage even though someone else needed it desperately. They are the ones who vented their anger on some very vulnerable people just because they could. They blamed others for their failures and lied to protect their reputations. They were lazy when things needed to get done and held progress hostage until they got what they wanted. They couldn’t be appeased for slights they had received, real and imagined.
Given the breadth and depth of villains around us, it hopefully would not surprise you to learn that, in somebody’s story, it is you. You were the supervisor who gave yourself all the best assignments and pushed the hard work down to others. You were the co-worker nobody wanted on the committee because you somehow made the meetings both long and unproductive. You were the overbearing father or the needy mother who held back the innocent child.
If you were never any of those, then you are among the 99 sheep in Christ’s parable. Carry on as you were and read no further. The rest of us, however, are the ones who need to repent. We are the members of Christ’s flock who have lost our way.
The good news is that we are the ones who can produce the greatest rejoicing in heaven. We are the ones who can return home on the shoulders of Christ. But will we? That requires repentance – admitting that we are wrong, humbly asking God’s forgiveness, and renouncing our villainous ways. Villainy may be ubiquitous in our world but repentance is rare. Will you be the one?