"So (the son) set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him." - Luke 15: 20
In this well-loved parable Jesus tells us that even those who are unable to reach out to God discover that God is reaching out to them, just as the waiting father in the parable ran out to his son.
This is who God is, the one who waits for the return of those who are "far off." And not only waits, but also watches and reaches out.
This God, the God revealed in Jesus Christ, is the God of everyone, male or female, Greek or Jew, those keeping the law at home or running away to a far country. This God loves lepers, sinners, Samaritans and Romans, both the clean and the unclean, the righteous and the unrighteous.
In Ephesians we are told that Jesus came and "preached peace to those who were far off and those who were near" (Ephesians 2:17). Today, "those who are near" might be our fellow church members. But who are the "far off" in our day? In our holy calling to spread Christ's peace and embody God's love, who have we missed? Who have we overlooked, ignored, or neglected? And can we lengthen our reach?
O God, never let us ever forget that nobody is too far off for your loving embrace.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.