Colorado is in the midst of yet another high-profile missing child case, that of Durango's Dylan Redwine. The problem of lost or abducted children seems to be escalating at an alarming rate. The latest credible statistics I could find were from a 2002 U.S. Department of Justice study which asserts that nearly 800,000 children under 18 go missing each year, about 2,185 per day. A fourth of these were abducted by family members, 58,000 by non-family members, and 115 are stereotypical kidnappings (stranger who transport child, demands a ransom, etc.)("National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview," Sedlak, Finkelhor, Hammer, and Schultz, 10/02, p. 5). The good news, according to FBI statistics, is that roughly 99 percent of that 800,000 are found through law enforcement efforts. The bad news, though, is that 8 to 10,000 are not found after lengthy, exhaustive search (cf. Daniel Broughton, Pediatrics Magazine, Vol. 114, No. 4, 10/04, 1100). As a parent, I find it hard to fathom the depth of anguish and pain for those who lose their children so senselessly and tragically.
Though Luke 15 illustrates spiritual waywardness with a lost sheep and a lost coin, the third and longest parable concerns a lost child. This child, though older, announced to his father that he was leaving, then departed to parts unknown. He was lost in a spiritual sense, prodigal or recklessly wasteful. The Bible describes his time in a distant country as spent in "loose living" (Luke 15:13). The older brother, however accurately, charged the prodigal son with devouring his wealth with prostitutes (Luke 15:30). Whatever the particulars, the son freely admitted to having sinned (Luke 15:21). In celebrating the boy's return, the father twice exclaimed that the boy "was lost and has been found" (Luke 15:24,32).
No parents love their children as deeply, perfectly, and intimately as God loves each of us. When we become spiritually lost, He grieves and aches more profoundly than we could imagine. Yet, He does not measure His loss in tens of thousands but in billions. Most of those who become lost in this way are never found (Matt. 7:13-14). The Father relies on you and me to help Him rescue and return His lost children! Or, if we are lost, we should realize how very much He wants us back home!