Perhaps some of our worst theology and doctrine comes from phrases we use that have no biblical basis. The title of this blog is one that I have heard before and is I daresay, a catch phrase in contemporary christian culture. My dad heard a man comment at a bible study on how hard is was for him to come back to God because he had walked so far away. My dad thought about bringing it up, but it wasn't the focal point of the conversation and he didn't want to hijack it. We discussed it later and I have thought about it and felt like this was the type of place to discuss it, so here I go......
I do not believe we walk away from God. This statement implies a distance between us that does not exist. It is not a theological statement but an emotional one. Another phrase we hear often is being close to God. I think that is also an emotional statement instead of a theological one. Therefore whether we think someone is close to God or far away from God they are really equal. So what is the difference? It is not about our distance from God but our face to him.
To say one has walked away from God is really saying someone has turned their back on Him. When I turn my back from God I have taken my focus off of Him. At this point my eyes are no longer on Him but on other things. When we turn our back on God we are showing we are not interested in listening to Him or talking to him. You never see people having a conversation with their backs to each other. They face each other and engage in dialogue, listening and speaking to one another. To turn our back on God is to stop focusing on, listening to, or speaking to God. Now the opposite is true when we are close to God. We have our eyes fixed on him and are engaging him in dialogue, taking the time to both speak with Him as well as listen to what He has to say for us.
I believe this perspective is important when understanding repentance. In the Greek the word means to do a U-turn, to turn 180 degrees and go the other direction. When we repent we are recognizing that for a moment we have taken our back on God and are turning back towards Him. It just occured to me that perhaps when I feel far from God it is not horizontal but vertical. I am not miles away from God, I just realize the depths of my sin. I also realize that when I feel far from God, it is just me realizing my need for repentance.
Luke 15 gives the parable of the prodigal son. He squandered what his father gave him and pursued a life focused on himself. Upon realizing that it was better to be his father's servant than his own master he went home to talk to his father. He found a compassionate father who forgave him for running away and immediately restored him. The father did not hesitate to restore him, feeding him and clothing him better then the son expected or deserved! The focus of the parable is not on the son's distance from home or his long journey. It is about the immediate willingness of the father to forgive his son and rejoice in his homecoming. The father never asks the son where he went or why he left, or even what happened to the money. He just forgives him. The Father is all about forgiveness.