February 5, 2014 — by Rev. Mateen Elass


Love For The Lost

searching for georgieSearching for Georgie


Our family loves Labrador retrievers. We presently have two female, yellow labs, Geordie and Haley, ages six and four. And last Saturday, I lost one.

Both dogs had bounded out the front door to enjoy the great outdoors while I got the mail. They both returned as I called them back to the house. I could have sworn I saw two flashes of gold pass by my leg as I began closing the door, but apparently I was wrong. Only our younger lab had entered. I inadvertently shut Geordie out.

She apparently didn’t mind, and I didn’t notice until about four hours later when my daughter went to play with the dogs and asked me where Geordie was. I assumed she was safely out in the backyard or curled up in one of her usual haunts in the house, so without much worry I started calling for her. As my searching and calling grew more intense, my fears started rising as it dawned on me that she was indeed lost.

My heart started pounding as my mind ran through worst case scenarios. I left the basketball game on the TV and email on my laptop. I grabbed a coat and my car keys and headed to the garage. I drove down our neighborhood streets a bit faster than I should, scanning yards and driveways quickly to cover as much ground as possible. I was consumed with concern for Geordie and the desire to get her back home safely.

Finally, I spotted her loping along, with no noticeable agenda, down a nearby street. As I pulled up alongside her, lowered my window and called her name, she stopped short, swiveled her head around until she located my voice and then came running to the car, tail swinging wildly. We got home safely and all was well again in the world.

Fueled by divine love


A couple days later, as I replayed this incident in my mind, I noted how the love for our lost dog had propelled me from indolence to action. It occurred to me in a fresh way that the same principle, on a far grander scale, was the fountainhead of the Gospel. God’s love for lost human beings fueled the Incarnation. John 3:16 tells us,
“God so loved the world that He sent His son…”

In Luke 19:10, Jesus sums up his ministry by declaring,
“The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

As Jesus’ followers, we have been commissioned to the same purpose – seeking out the lost to bring them to Jesus, and to “make disciples.” While a sense of duty, new strategies, accountability groups, greater targeting of resources, denominational church planting conferences, and so on, can all help in this mission, nothing matches the fuel of divine love for the lost. When our hearts brim with God’s love for the unreached and the disinterested, leading us to proactive, sacrificial steps that demonstrate Christ’s mercy in tangible ways, then perhaps ECO (and every other denomination) will begin to see the harvest come in. At the very least we will see communities of disciples whose passion inspires emulation.

I felt God saying to me,

“Your love for your family pet inspired you to get off the couch to find her and bring her home safely. Why doesn’t My love for the lost inspire you to get off the couch and find your neighbors and bring them to Me?”

I didn’t have a very good answer, except to acknowledge my hardness of heart, and to ask God to soften it.

May God place His unrelenting love for the lost in the heart of our ECO community, so that reaching the world for Christ never becomes merely a denominational obligation but remains our consuming passion, fueled by the divine love in our hearts.

Photo credit.


Rev. Mateen Elass

Mateen was the second of four children born to a Syrian Muslim who had married an American while studying at the University of Wisconsin. Some years after Mateen’s birth, the family moved to Saudi Arabia where his father worked as an oil company executive. During his early teens Mateen began a search for God, largely through reading. For six years he focused on eastern mysticism and meditation including a stay at an ashram in India. His heart is for those who walk where he once walked, those who search but have not yet found the love of Jesus. For that reason he particularly appreciates the church’s welcome to visitors, its willingness to walk beside them as they move toward God, and its growing enthusiasm to move outside the confines of the church campus to share Christ’s love with all who wish to hear. A frequent speaker about Islam, Mateen sees his experience on both sides of the Christian-Muslim divide as providing a unique opportunity to create bridges of understanding. His great hope is that God will use him to reveal the love of Jesus to both sides. “God will provide guidance to those who seek him, and will equip his people to do his will.”

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