“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” – Luke 15:4
Lately, in my theological pondering, I have found myself enamored with the notion of God constantly being in pursuit of us. As the beautiful Cory Asbury lyric puts it in his song Reckless Love:
“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away…”“Reckless Love” Copyright © 2017 Cory Asbury Publishing, Richmond Park Publishing, Watershed Worship Publishing, Bethel Music Publishing. CCLI # 1250028
God’s love is a reckless love that chases us down, leaving the 99. Wow. It’s not just a reckless love, it’s a radical fidelity. And the strange thing is, we can only comprehend a teeny part of the recklessness and radicalness that motivates God’s pursuit. Any attempts to liken God’s pursuit of individuals to something that we can comprehend well are futile attempts. There is no comparison. Language falls short. Lost sheep, lost coins, prodigal sons, they all provide a glimpse, a snapshot of sorts, yet they can only provide so much.
Yet, a more recent parable provides me with a slightly more relevant perspective as to what God’s faithful and reckless pursuit of us is like…
There was a Preacher. A somewhat handsome and balding, funny, and witty middle-aged fellow. The Preacher, motivated by the love of family and creatures, adopted an 18-month-old pit bull. They called the dog Otis. Otis was the sweetest animal who ever lived. Yet, Otis had a chewing problem. Shoes, power chords, household decorations, his chewing knew no limitation. The Preacher, in his infinite wisdom, went to the pet store where he purchased a “heavy-duty” Kong chew toy. Otis received the chew toy with gladness. One Saturday in February, trusting Otis to be a good boy outside of his crate, equipped with his new chew toy, the Preacher and family left the house for an hour. When they returned, they discovered Otis had chewed off the entire back of the leather sectional recliner. Somehow, his Kong toy ended up behind the recliner flap. The only way to retrieve it was to chew his way to it.
Out of a reckless love and a radical fidelity, God, like Otis, will do whatever God needs to do to capture God’s beloved. Even if it involves a cross.
In lieu of a formal written prayer, I offer the first 15 lines of Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven”
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears.
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instance,
They beat – and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet – ‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
Jabe Largen is the pastor of Pinehurst UMC