"I tell you truly, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent." - Luke 15:7
Jesus says that God is much happier when we sin and repent than when we don't. So maybe it's good that the lamb went astray. If it hadn't, neither the shepherd nor God would have known the unique delight Jesus speaks of.
Since repenting makes heaven so all-fired happy, maybe we should sin a lot more. Then, when we're done, we could say, "Oops, sorry!", electrifying Paradise with that special thrill.
Well, we could do that, but it's probably not what Jesus had in mind. And yet he seems to say that there are worse things we could do than sin, worse things we could be than bad. We could strive to be better people—the sort of better people who believe they are better than other people. We could go out of our way to avoid icky sinners, putting cold, contemptuous miles between us and them.
To sin, go astray, do harm, fall flat on our willful faces—none of that's good exactly, but at least it's real. At least it doesn't separate or distinguish us from anybody else. At least it makes for human solidarity. And any kind of solidarity is better than distance, exclusion, and contempt.
Besides, if we didn't sin, God would just stay home and read the paper all day instead of lighting out into the canyons and brambles of life to find us by the whimpers of our lost and shivering hearts. It's wrong to say that sin repels God. Sin is a God Magnet. Wherever there's a sinner with a sin, God is there.
So yes, by all means, we should be sad and sorry for our sins. But we should be grateful and glad for our sins, too. Think where we'd be without them.
Searching Shepherd, it's weirdly paradoxical and maybe even a little wrong to thank you for my sins, but I do. Without them, I'm lost. With them, I'm found. Praise to you forever. Amen.
J. Mary Luti is Visiting Professor of Worship and Preaching at Andover Newton Theological School.