This “Application” column goes with the Bible Lesson for Nov. 29, 2020: Seek Reconciliation (Philemon 8-21)
By David Faust
“I missed you.” I found myself saying those words a lot when the coronavirus pandemic began to ease early this summer. One by one, friends emerged from quarantine. Worshippers inched back to the church building for in-person services. Restaurants reopened.
During weeks of lockdown in the spring, I stayed in touch with my granddaughters by phone, text, and Zoom, but I longed to see them face-to-face. I missed the servers at the local deli. I missed visiting patients in the hospital. I missed little kids darting around the church lobby, young adults chattering in the halls on Sunday mornings, and senior adults gathering for monthly luncheons.
Hard-Wired for Relationships
This difficult year has taught us many lessons, including the importance of personal relationships. We have learned not to take for granted everyday blessings like eating in a restaurant, shopping in a store, or going to work, church, and school. We have gained new appreciation for doctors, nurses, farmers, and truck drivers. Teachers missed seeing their students. Aging parents sequestered in nursing homes missed seeing their loved ones.
We all have gotten a taste of the isolation many consider commonplace. Sadly, for too many men, women, boys, and girls, loneliness is an everyday experience—a cruel quarantine of the soul. It doesn’t take a pandemic to make a widow miss her husband or an orphan miss his mom and dad.
No one thrives in solitary confinement. Some of us are introverts and some are extroverts, but we all need connection with others. Something feels off when relationships are disrupted.
Just as our bodies require food and water, our souls long for reconciliation with each other and with God. Remember Jesus’ story about the prodigal son? The rebellious runaway woke up hungry in a pig pen and had a spiritual awakening. Ironically, he found himself missing the very place he had scornfully left behind. Humbled and repentant, he headed home, unsure what kind of welcome he would receive. Meanwhile, the whole time he was gone, his father was missing him, too. The lost son gladly received his dad’s embrace, while the one who missed out on the party was the resentful older brother.
As our churches rebound and rebuild from the pandemic, let’s remember the welcoming arms of the prodigal’s father. We may not be allowed to hug, but neighbors emerging from isolation and loneliness need a warm welcome that says sincerely, “We missed you! We’re so glad you’re here.” It shouldn’t be hard to empathize with the lonely and lost, for all of us have been prodigal sons and daughters ourselves.
And what about broken relationships where relatives or church members have been at odds with each other? The biblical theme of reconciliation flows from deep in the heart of God. Speaking of the runaway Onesimus, Paul told Philemon, “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me” (v. 18)—not unlike what Jesus did for us at the cross. Grace triumphs when estranged friends tell one another, “I missed you,” and find peace again in Christ.
Something in every human heart cries out to the Father, “I miss you.” Read Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, and you’ll discover a profound truth: God misses us, too.
PERSONAL CHALLENGE: Think of someone who has been estranged from you, or someone with whom you have an unresolved conflict. Pray for God’s guidance and, if necessary, seek godly counsel, and then write a note or an email letting them know you miss them and want to be reconciled.