Far Off

“And he came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17).
Isolation is a dreadful experience. Whether it be quarantine because of communicable disease, exile because of political oppression, or solitary confinement as punishment, any form of isolation causes anxiety and distress.
In more than fifteen years of travel to parts of the world usually considered undeveloped, there have been occasions when I have been cut off from communication with home and family for several days at a time, or even longer. Maybe I should be used to it, but the unease associated with isolation continues. Today, for example, I learned that the ferry which crosses the major river between our school in Khulna, Bangladesh and Dhaka, the capitol, has been closed for two days because of high water. Since I have plans to travel to Dhaka later this week to meet my wife who is on her way to join me, that caused a few minutes of concern. For a brief time I felt cut off. Then I realized that there are alternate ways of traveling, and, besides, a call ascertained that the ferry is once again open. I breathed a sigh of relief.
There is, however, a far more serious condition of isolation described in the Bible. “At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Sin has separated us from God. We who were made in his image, to enjoy constant fellowship with our Creator and Father, are cut off and banished because of our rebellion. As Adam was expelled from Eden, so we are without God and without hope, so long as we are in sin.
But we do not have to be separated. “He came and preached peace.” Jesus has brought us back near to God, and has reconciled us to him by the power of his grace and love. We are no longer strangers and aliens, banished from his presence. We may know the warmth of his love and the blessings of his salvation through Christ.
I may be twelve thousand miles from home, but I feel close and in fellowship with my family so long as I can communicate with them. Telephones and email make isolation more bearable, or really remove it almost entirely. No, it is not the same as being in their physical presence, but it is surely not the same as not hearing from one another, either.
Our fellowship with God is, while we are on this earth, more nearly experienced as communication than as physical presence. Yes, he dwells in us through his Spirit (Ephesians 2:22), but we experience him essentially in a less direct manner. It is through prayer and the comfort of scripture that we may have the most direct exposure and communication with God and with Christ. In our worship and devotion we are assured of their presence, and we in turn express our awareness of them.
My point is this: If we fail to communicate we are still as if isolated. The blessed reconciliation of Christ does us little good. One may reissue a passport to an exile, but if he does not use it to travel, his exile does not end. The fact that he can return does not change his separated state. Too many who claim faith in Christ still live in exile, failing to establish and maintain meaningful communication with God.
Do you spend time in prayer, study and worship? Are you in fellowship, or still separated and alone, in spite of a profession of faith. If so, it is your own doing, and, thankfully, you have the power to change it. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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