I received a newsletter from a good missionary friend yesterday that spoke of his intention to “rescue lost people for Christ”. I have always felt uneasy about that sort of language. It sounds condescending and disparaging. Perhaps I’m just being squeamish, but I think I have some biblical warrant.
The word translated “lost” in the Gospels is the perfect participle of the verb apollumi. It is not the world that is “lost” but a section of Israel. The lost-and-found parables in Luke 15 are told to the Pharisees and scribes who are complaining, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” The sheep, coin and son in the parables are lost in the obvious sense: they were part of something larger—a hundred sheep, ten coins, a household—but they have been mislaid and need to found again.