I have been in Hereford, TX to lead a session retreat about vision and leadership training. One of the more fascinating discussions I had with one of the leaders here was regarding the parable of the lost sheep. We were talking about the need for discipline and mutual accountability in the life of the church, and how when this is lacking, an unchecked and undisciplined sin begins to eat away at the life of the church.
As we were discussing the need for discipline and accountability this person asked, "But doesn't Jesus tell us to leave the 99 to go after the one lost sheep? Doesn't that mean we should be concerned about every single person in the church?
While this is absolutely true, leaders cannot sacrifice the health of the 99 for the one lost sheep. Too many ministries are held hostage by such sheep who are power-hungry and just plain manipulative.
And here's one of the limitations with any parable - there are truths to be gleaned, but if you press the parable too far, it begins to break down. And you cannot pit one parable over the other teachings in scripture. If you make this parable your model for ministry, you will have a tiny ineffective congregation that is held captive because the leadership is focused on the disease of one individual rather than focusing on the health and vitality of the 99.
Jesus told us to "Go and make disciples...teach them to obey everything I have commanded you." The church's main business is to grow new Christians and to grow faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. And this mission must not be compromised by any one or more individuals.
Jesus, in teaching about what kind of lives His followers are to live, told them, "You are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13).
Why on earth would Jesus tell us we are to be like salt?
Salt is used as a flavoring agent, a preserver, a thirst causing agent, etc. There are many great uses for salt.
Salt, as you know is, sodium chloride.
Sodium is a compound that is found only in combined forms. You will never find sodium on its own. It has to attach itself to some other compound.
Chloride is a poisonous gas.
But when you combine these two, you end up with salt that flavors its environment, preserves the truth, causes other people to thirst, etc.
Here's the thing. Sodium is a lot like love. Love always has to attach itself to something else. Love does not exist in a vacuum or in isolation. But that's exactly the problem with love. There are no boundaries. There are no standards. Love will love all things - not just loving the sinner, but love is incapable of distinguishing the sin.
Chloride is a lot like truth and holiness. On its own, when truth and holiness are pounded down on people kills.
But when you combine love and truth, now you've got something. You are salt!