“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” (Matthew 18:12–13, ESV)
How's your heart toward those who have gone astray?
Interestingly (and I think importantly), this passage comes right before Jesus' teaching on what we'd call church discipline. I would describe church discipline as the process whereby Christians seek to restore a sinning brother or sister (c.f. verse 15 "If he listens to you, you have gained your brother").
I think church discipline can be mistaken for the process where by Christians gradually write off "sinners" and dissolve their affections and engagement with the individual as time passes.
Jesus' teaching doesn't allow us to do anything of the sort. Our Savior seeks out and rejoices over sheep that go astray. Their distance almost seems to intensify his affection for them (e.g. Matt 23:37). He longs to see them reconciled.
If you are in a biblical church, you likely know someone under church discipline. They may be growing, they may be languishing. Either way, may our hearts long for the restoration of Christ's sheep. Through love, prayer and persistence may we seek these sheep. May our hearts ache like our Savior's!
And when Christ brings his sheep back (and he will), may we rejoice in the work of our good shepherd and embrace the sheep he has restored.