Yesterday I had a new insight into the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:4-7) that related to being a teacher and a leader. In the story, the shepherd has one hundred sheep and one wanders off. He goes to search for the one sheep, leaving the other ninety-nine on the hills. Then he is happier about the one who was found than the other ninety-nine. "In the same way," says Jesus, "your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish."
This is a story about a loving Father who is willing to go in search of someone he loves who has wandered off from him. The story was told so that we would know that he seeks us and wants us to know him closely. And that we should also seek others and not look down on those who are not currently close to God.
The story was alluded to in a book I am currently reading, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. This is not a Christian book, though the author is open about the fact that he is a Christian. This makes it very interesting reading for me. It's the grandfather of modern success and productivity writing and has been very helpful on both a personal and professional level. A fair few Christian ideas have popped up, some overtly and some not.
I was reading about how we can make emotional investments in our relationships with others. One way we do this, the book says, is by showing personal integrity in our relationships. We can show integrity by being loyal those who are not present. This is a reason not to gossip or talk about someone behind their back. If you do this, the person to whom you are gossiping learns that you will do the same to them when they are not around. This lowers trust.
Also, a way to show integrity is to confront someone when your relationship needs to be mended or improved. "Confrontation takes considerable courage…. In the long run, people will trust and respect you if you are honest and open and kind with them. You care enough to confront."
Another way integrity is displayed is the care you show for one person who needs it. Your care for that person shows the others how you would also care for them. "The key to the ninety-nine is the one."
Covey says that he learned this in the context of being a teacher and a parent. "It is the love and the discipline of the one student, the one child, that communicates love for the others." I realised that the care I show for one of my students can been seen by the others as the care I would also give to them when they need it. This also applies to the way I treat my team members. As I treat one of them with honour, the others should see that they will all be treated with the same respect.
This gives us an insight into Jesus' parable. Not only is the focus on the one person who is brought close to God, but the other ninety-nine see the care the Father shows. Those of us who are already in the family of God can see the care God shows to others and know that he loves us in the same way. We can take to heart that love.
I felt really blessed by this insight. It takes Jesus' story and helps me see how God's love permeates my life and can be the model for the way I treat others as well, in all of my diverse roles.