Luke’s Gospel is loved for its compassion and understanding, not least in its treatment of human sin. There is an essential kindness in Luke’s portrayal of sinfulness as the state of being lost.
Only Luke tells the story of Zacchaeus, with Jesus’ telling remark, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke devotes a whole chapter to the exploration of this concept. Chapter 15 is given over to the telling of three parables, The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son, each of which helps us to see the faithful and tireless love of God. Luke shows us that, no matter how far we have strayed, God will never give up searching for us. Not only will he wait for us and run to meet us, like the father of the lost son, but he will search for us as the shepherd looked for his lost sheep. And Luke stresses in each of these parables that, when we are reunited with this loving God, we are not scolded or punished – the joy at our homecoming is exuberantly happy. God rejoices when his lost children come home.
We notice in the “chapter of the lost” a sense of God accepting responsibility
for our wrongdoing. In the story of the coin, the woman has lost her treasure; you can hardly blame the coin. In the story of the sheep – well, sheep do wander; it is the responsibility of the shepherd to watch over them. This shows a wise compassion for human weakness, and suggests that God accepts us as we are. Even when we have sinned, he is still on our side; he does not blame us; he just does everything he can to put things right, and he wants us to do the same. This response of restitution also comes out very vividly in the story of Zacchaeus in chapter 19.
O God our Father, how generous and forgiving is your love to us! We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your gracious dealing with us, your patience, and your kindness. Plant in our souls the seeds of loving-kindness, so that we may look upon others with the same generosity with which you have regarded us. May your mercy and gentleness take root in our lives and flower in our hearts. May our relationships with one another bear the fruit of forgiveness and reconciliation that you long to see, and so witness to everyone who knows us that you are our true Father and we are indeed your children, bearing the family resemblance of compassion and grace. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.