I enjoy comparing God with film. Simple entertainment from Hollywood can’t measure up with the transformative truths of Scripture. However, common themes can often be explored.
For example, Disney-Pixar’s Finding Dory reintroduces us to a blue tang fish suffering from short-term memory loss. In this sequel, she begins to recall being separated from her parents as a child, and thus embarks on an epic adventure which eventually leads her to a conservatory.
Dory once asks her parents, “What if I forget you? Would you ever forget me?”
This reminds me of a story that Jesus told while being criticized for the company that he kept.
The Bible reads, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear (Jesus). And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Just so, 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’” (Luke 15:1-7, NLT).
Jesus gathered with sinners and tax collectors (those who partnered with and profited from the Roman Empire). Most religious leaders refused to even teach the Law to such misfits. Eating with them was far worse. Reconciliation demanded that he be present. The irony was that the “sinners’” actually listened.
God seeks out sinners to bring them home.
This was a revolutionary idea that those who believed in God found “joy ... when those who provoked him would finally perish.” Jesus illustrated this truth with a story of a shepherd who left 99 sheep in no danger to search for the one who was lost. He hoisted the lamb on his back, refused to grumble under the weight, and even called his family to join him in a celebration.
Does this surprise your notions about God? Repentance is for everyone.
We are all invited to turn from our sin and towards our Savior. We are invited to join in a banquet which is worth more than the cost of following him.
Jesus rejoices over the one. So should his church. The purpose of sharing the good news is ultimately so that God will be worshipped by everyone — rule-breakers and rule-keepers alike. Extend a hand, learn to listen, and change the conversation.
Just to clarify, Jesus also met with the Pharisees. The church is far from perfect (often full of gossip, discord, and power struggles). However, we are called to love others in the context of community (being changed to bring change).
Hopefully, we will come to realize that we really are better together than by ourselves. The church could be — and should be — a place where you are cared for at your absolute worst while being shaped to be your absolute best.
Returning to Finding Dory, Hank the Octopus said, “If I (were you), I would swim off into the blue and forget everything” to which Dory responds, “I don’t want to — I want my family.”
Justin Farley is a church planter and lead pastor at Blue Bridge Church which meets at Carmike Cinemas in Kennewick. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.