Jesus Christ became incarnate, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to reconcile His creatures–His baptized “children” of all ages–to God, their creator, and usher them into His kingdom for all eternity. At times, however, it seems like the church is more about shrinking the herd in God’s kingdom than being His instruments to make it grow! Some synods go on a “witch hunt” from time to time to get rid of people who disagree with them. Other trot sinners up to the front pew revival style to humiliate them. However, most groups simply shun the people who cross them. And don’t forget, the medieval church that used threats of excommunication to control people. And of course there are our modern day cults and sects that thrive on the “members only” secret culture to keep their followers in line with the leadership. In all of these practices Jesus Christ and His Gospel are lost amidst the rules and practices invented by human beings. Forgiveness and justification by faith alone in Christ alone are thrown under the bus to make way for an earthly agenda which may sound good, and maybe even religious, but it is nothing because it is apart from Christ.
Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep and His warning to not mislead His children are clear. Why do we have trouble understanding them? Because they are “hard to take” for the old Adam. The “old you” would rather look smooth and guiltless while he’s getting rid of the people he doesn’t like! And that is the problem: God is calling you to bring your brother back into the herd, not look right as you’re kicking or driving him out.
God gives the wicked a warning through Ezekiel, and Jesus tells you to go to your brother to bring him to repentance and restore his broken relationship. God won’t quit until He has restored all the broken relationships of His sheep with Himself and with one another. To simply say, “love your neighbor” is ambiguous. One can take it many ways. To confront your neighbor for the purpose of restoring his relationship with you and God is the clear message of God’s Word today. Jesus died on the cross to find you and your brother—His lost sheep—to bring you both back in the fold for all eternity. God isn’t calling you judge your brother. He will do that Himself. He is calling you to do what may seem nasty but is necessary—to confront him in person with the truth, in love—to actually be honest with him. It would be easier to “talk around” the issue or avoid the elephant in the room. But that won’t restore your broken relationship with God or your brother. Here we truly see that love isn’t avoiding the issue so as to “look loving” but rather love is risking yourself on the rocks in a personal meeting to restore your broken fellowship with your brother. That is being loving and being a neighbor for your brother. Christ died on the cross to make you a New Being, to set free to be a loving neighbor and His instrument to grow His herd in heaven. Amen.