Seeking the Lost

 
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An intriguing video appeared on social media recently entitled,  “Last of his tribe, Brazil releases a video of the ‘lonely man.’ The short video contains shaky, handheld footage of a single man cutting down wood in a forest with a narrator whispering in a combination of fear and awe. The accompanying article tells the story of this man who wanders his tribe’s area of the Brazilian jungle, cutting wood, killing game, and sleeping in a little shack. He is the lone survivor of a group of people who have been slowly wiped out over the years. Apparently, the Brazilian government does not allow anyone to interfere with him. Like the Starship Enterprise’s mandate regarding the discovery of life on other planets, they feel it is immoral to interrupt his little paradigm of the universe.  The article and video, the existence of a man so isolated and yet now so well-known around the globe is frankly a little creepy and sad.

It’s creepy because the journalist and the government seem to pride themselves on leaving the man alone, even while they spy on him. It’s sad because of the obvious: he’s alone!

I’m not saying that we should civilize him, introduce him to western culture, and give him an iPhone. Maybe he’s better off without our so-called ‘civilization.’  But doesn’t he need a hug? A conversation? A helping hand? Doesn’t he deserve to know that someone cares, let alone that God cares, that Christ died and rose for him? Doesn’t he deserve to know like the rest of us that sins are forgiven and the grave is not the end?

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” the Beatles sing in their well-known song, “Eleanor Rigby.” We might not have any lost Amazon tribes hidden from us in our overly civilized and connected society, but we have plenty of lonely people. Not far from your doors is a woman who screwed up her life so bad, her family and friends left her to herself. Not far from your church building is a boy who has been abused by the world, feels confused about his sexuality, and doesn’t think anyone would understand. In our schools and workplaces, at Walmart and the doctor’s offices, lonely people are going about their day. They live hidden behind their sins, shame, and past. They assume that this life is all there is before we all turn to worm food. They don’t know anyone cares for them, let alone that the God of the universe loves them.

Loneliness was the first effect of sin’s entrance into our world. Full of fear and shame, Adam and Eve scurried into the darkness away from God. Yet they also hid from one another - covering themselves with clothing. They no longer knew what the other was thinking or wanting. They no longer trusted that the other had their best interest in mind. They were still together yet they were light years apart.

Our esteemed rugged individualism doesn’t help things either. “Live and let live” we proudly cry as if that is a type of compassion. We tend to treat struggling people around us like the disciples in the desert who told Jesus to send the hungry crowd away, into the villages to find food. When it comes to the lonely, we are content to wipe our hands of any responsibility.  Worse, we don’t mind being voyeurs of their sad situation! Like the Amazon man, lonely people in our midst make for good entertainment in our gossip circles.

There are lonely people all around us who don’t know anything about the free forgiveness in Jesus. They don’t know about a man who rose from the dead. They don’t know about a God who didn’t leave Adam and Eve alone in their sin, shame and guilt. Instead, He chased after them as they hid saying, ‘Where are you?” Then He clothed them and promised a Son who would save them so that they would never spend eternity alone.

The only obedient son is shunned so that the disobedient one may return. Why? Because God loves sinners. He doesn’t leave them alone.
— Joel Hess

How ironic that the obedient Son who was one with the Father cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.  Why indeed? The only obedient son is shunned so that the disobedient one may return. Why? Because God loves sinners. He doesn’t leave them alone.  One might say that He is annoying like that!  We often want to be alone much to our detriment.

The Son who let Himself hang alone for all our sins promises to leave the 99 to find just the one!  

Maybe lonely people are sitting right next to you in your church. Don’t assume they want to be alone. Though the devil loves to separate us, reach out, serve them, embrace them. Don’t assume they ‘know’ the Good News of Jesus. Maybe they need to hear it again.  

May the Good Shepherd, Jesus, continue to seek the lost, leave the 99 to find the one lonely sheep. Thank God He found me after all, and you!

Rev. Joel Hess is the fortunate pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Cadillac, MI, where God’s reality pierces through our illusions by His Word, flesh and blood and gentle waters.  He is the author of many half written projects; a talented musician and artist.  His contributions to the Jagged Word deal with the intersection of theology, culture and the arts.




 

 

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