Do we believe every person counts? Not just our friends or the people we enjoy, but every single person? Jesus does, and he showed that in how he lived.
Religious people have never liked Jesus’ people priorities, considering certain people less desirable than others. One way Jesus pushed back against their bigotry was with stories about the value of people. Luke 15 relays three of these famous stories, each one featuring something, or someone, of value becoming lost and then being found. And the point? Each person really matters to God, so much that they are worth searching for, taking personal risks, paying tremendous costs, doing whatever it takes to bring them home.
I love it when Hollywood shares a story that aligns with God’s heart for people. The recent Damon-Scott blockbuster The Martian, based on Weir’s book, is a parable resonant with Jesus’ point about the incredible value of one human life, worth expending every effort for their rescue. Like the lost coin, sheep and sons, The Martian underscores the never-changing truth that everyone matters, that every life counts.
Inspired by the parable, I showed this trailer during our Sunday morning gathering to illustrate God’s conviction that every person counts. As Christians, what God cares about, we care about. Because people matter to God, they matter to us.
When I reflected on all four of these parables (ancient and modern), I realized that in each parable people were willing to take great personal risk and pay tremendous costs to restore the lost sheep, coin, son, and astronaut. The shepherd left the 99 to risk a wilderness search; the woman worked feverishly to find her coin; the father disdained personal reputation and wealth to restore his sons. In The Martian, the crew of the Ares 3 put everything on the line, risking life, limb and legacy, to bring Mark home. Teams on the ground spared no expense to see him rescued. The world launched an all-out effort for one man, stranded far away, to make it back to earth. I love it. That’s the heart of God for people, and that’s our heart, too.
As members of the church Jesus leads, this is serious business. We want to be the kind of church where every person matters, and not just the “insider,” but those who are far away, out of touch, detached, disinterested, wandering, even lost. Churches often expend great energy to care for those who are present, who “show up,” knowing that they matter (and they do!). But it’s been too easy to forget our call to expend even more energy, more cost, more effort, more money to reach people who will never show up for the party unless someone seeks for them, works for their return, prays for their rescue, does whatever it takes to see them home. The church must become obsessed with finding people who think they’ve been forgotten, who do not know they matter, who are not even aware that an all-out search is being raised on their behalf.
Why? Because to God, every person counts. And if that’s God’s heart, then it’s ours.
How does this story change the way you see others?
Why does Jesus put so much emphasis on people who have been rejected by the religious?
(If you want to hear my original message, using The Martian to reinforce our vision at the Erickson Covenant Church, you can listen to it here.)