Part 4: Love the Lost

Monday 1 May, 2023

In some ways love is easy. Whether it’s loving a friend you grew up with playing together in the park, or a friend that you met at school and you share the same interests so you naturally get along and build a good and close friendship. There are some people you just naturally get along with more and that makes loving them easy. But what about those who we perceive to be different? That’s where it gets a little bit trickier doesn’t it?

Think about loving people who have different political convictions for instance. (Dare I mention the independence debate?) But more so, think about people who have a completely different worldview, and outlook on life, from you. Rather than asking us to congregate in a holy-huddle who hide away from the world, the Bible instructs us to love those who stand against everything we believe, those who are ‘lost’. There are plenty of reasons why all Christians should love the lost, but let me highlight just three reasons for us.

1. They’re lost

First of all, and this might sound obvious, but we should love the lost because they are just that: lost. Sadly, I’ve heard Christians have an attitude whereby they think that they are better than non-Christians because they know Jesus. But the reality is that we only know Jesus because He revealed Himself to us. The Bible uses different metaphors to describe those who don’t know Jesus, here are a few; non-Christians are in darkness (John 8:12; 2 Cor 4:14), blind (2 Cor 4:4) and dead in transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1).

Just because this is no longer our reality as Christians, doesn’t mean that we should feel or act superior to non-Christians, but we should recognise the reality of their status before God. They are lost. A bit like a hiker who has wandered off the beaten track; non-Christians are distanced from the God who loves them and has created them. As Christians, we know the path, we know the way that leads to eternal life through Jesus and we should be helping our non-Christian friends, family and colleagues to look for Jesus and not go their own way. They are lost, but we can guide them and help them look for Jesus, the one who calls them to himself.

In addition to that, Jesus tells us to love our neighbour in Matthew 22:34-40. Jesus is saying that in the same way that we love ourselves, so too we should care for those around us and look out for their interests, whether they are believers or not. We’re commanded by Jesus to love our neighbours.

Loving the lost, really loving the lost, leads us to share the gospel with them and to point them to Jesus. God loves the world and so must we, we do that as we build friendships with the lost, as we care for them, but ultimately our love should be expressed in our witnessing to them and telling them about the good news of Jesus.

2. They’re on a path leading to destruction

Similar to the above point, but with a slightly different focus, we should love the lost because they’re on a path leading to destruction. Out of love for them we need to warn them of that truth. One of the topics that we love to talk about as Christians is the

glorious future of heaven that awaits us when we die. We think of the glorious presence of God and eternal life that we now have because of Jesus. But one of the topics that not many Christians like to talk about, especially with non-Christians, is the opposite of heaven: hell.

Believing in the gospel means that we believe in heaven and in hell. We believe that for the Christian a glorious future awaits them, but for the non-Christians the future that awaits them is eternal suffering under the just wrath of God in hell. We probably don’t talk about it that much because previous generations laboured the topic of hell and scared people with it, but have we gone too far the other way? (I think so!).

The gospel gives us an understanding of the severity of God’s judgment and hell that should put a deep sense of urgency in our bones to go out and share the gospel with the countless people in our area who are dying without a saving knowledge of Jesus. The urgency is there because time is short, as Jesus says in Luke 13:22-30: a time is coming where the possibility to hear about Jesus and to respond to Him in faith will no longer be there. As Christians we cannot subscribe to an intellectual understanding of that and not be spurred to reach out and boldly share our faith. Loving people is sharing the good news of salvation with them.

As you read this, think of 1 person in your life who doesn’t know Jesus, pray for them, pray for opportunities and share the gospel with them this week. It might be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. If we truly believe that people are on the path that leads to eternal judgment under the wrath of God in hell, then we need to warn them, we need to tell them that there is a way for them to be free of that judgment and that way is to trust in Jesus, because He took that punishment for His people.

3. We were once them!

Not only do we still have a lot in common with non-Christians (hobbies, jobs, likes and dislikes, etc.) but we also have a shared history because there was a time when we weren’t Christians too. Some people became Christians as children, others as teens, and other as adults, but regardless of how long we’ve been a Christian, for all of us, there was a day when we were not. As Eph 21:5 says “As for you, you were dead in your trans- gressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are diso- bedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

As Christians we must never forget where we have come from, that we too were lost, but now we are found, that we too were on the path that leads to destruction but now we’ve been saved by Jesus. We’ve found the truth and so out of a love for the lost we need to share the gospel with people, not to win an argument or to be someone special, but because sharing Jesus and making disciples is what every Christian is called to do (Matthew 28:19-20). We love the lost because we have walked in their shoes, we know their struggles, we know their worldview and we are best placed to care for them and to point them to Jesus because we love them.