With respect to a spotlight approach, Jesus talks about a woman who has ten coins, and when she loses one of them, she lights a lamp and sweeps the house and searches carefully until she finds it. She shines her spotlight into every dark corner of the house, ignoring things that are on the fringe, until the beam of the light hits the coin. Once she finds the coin, the woman then calls out to her neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost” (Luke 15:9).
So far, so good. This approach is about seeking out and highlighting what matters, until we locate what we are looking for.
In regard to the zoom-lens approach, Jesus teaches about a shepherd who has 100 sheep. Typically, on most days, the shepherd can watch the flock. Yet, when one sheep goes missing, he needs to zoom in on the one sheep until he finds it. Yet, as Jesus notes, “When the shepherd finds it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices” (Luke v. 5).
This approach to paying attention seems to be riskier. When the shepherd focuses on the one lost sheep, he loses sight of the other 99 sheep. We might imagine that when the shepherd throws a party, rejoicing over finding the lost sheep, the people at the party might ask him, “Why didn’t you focus on the 99? What happened to them?”
That’s a good question. Watching over 99 sheep seems more sensible than zooming in on one! Yet, that is Jesus’ approach, leave the 99 and seek the one. In fact, this is what Jesus says, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (v. 7).
Again, it is a risking venture, but it is key to understanding what Jesus is saying. More importantly, it is key to understanding how Jesus is living, for the heart of Jesus’ ministry is the welcoming and eating with tax-collectors and sinners (vv. 1-2); as Jesus says later, that’s why he has come: to seek and save the lost, always to the consternation of the Pharisees and scribes (Luke 19:10).
Yet, this is the point of the parables, as Jesus says, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v. 10).
Where do we need to have selective attention? Jesus answers: put the spotlight on the one coin, not just the nine coins. Zoom in on the one sheep, not the 99. Such attention might not seem sensible; it might sound ridiculous, but it goes to the heart of God.
How might we practice selective attention in our relationship with God? Where is God calling us to pay attention to what he is doing?
Pastor Andy Kinsey