Despite how technology can bring us together, the physical distance between where you are and where someone else is a big deal. Friends who text each other are different than friends who have dinner together. A video chat with family is different than a hug from your mom. And a long distance romance is different than holding hands or kissing.
Distance impacts us.
Jesus knows it. In Luke 15, he spoke about a defiant son who took half his father’s wealth and got as far away from home as he could by going to “a distant country” (15:13) where he reveled in his newfound independence until the money ran out, the new friends evaporated, and he found himself hungering after mud-covered pig food.
In Luke 19, Jesus spoke about a nobleman who likewise was getting ready to travel to “a distant country” (19:12), but in this case, he was going to receive a brand new kingdom for himself. While he was away, his citizens who hated him sent word to him that they didn’t want him to return (v. 14).
In both parables, people want distance, certain that things like life, joy, wealth, and freedom are all to be found far away from the one in authority over them.
In both parables, Jesus is acknowledging our shared human experience. Sometimes we treat Him like we want to get far away from Him. Sometimes it feels like God is distant, like He’s gone far away from us and He’s never coming back. And both of these are hard for us as humans to deal with.
You know what I’m talking about. But more importantly, Jesus knows. We feel the distance. Long for it sometimes. Loathe it other times. Don’t know how to bridge it many times.
Jesus knows too that something unique happens to us when we see a loved one face to face after a long time apart. Something happens to us when a friend notices a sadness in our expression and pulls us aside to ask us about it. Something happens to us when one we love lets us know they love us, too.
The more I listen to people’s stories and get to know them, and the more of my own life I live, the more I’m convinced the answer to most all that ails us consists in two things and two things alone: Nearness to God and nearness to other people.
I think this is at least a part of what Jesus is getting at in Luke 15 and 19.
Here’s the beautiful thing: The son thought he had to take from his dad and get far away to get what he really wanted, but his dad had more to give than his son ever imagined. The citizens and servants thought their best life would come if their master never came back, when actually the great distance their master was travelling was to receive a kingdom he fully intended to give to them (19:16-19).
What kind of distance do you experience in the world around you? Leave a comment below.
This Thursday if you live in the Baltimore area, join us for A Great Distance, our annual fundraising dessert for Regeneration’s Baltimore ministry. It will be an incredible evening of worship, desserts, stories of Jesus’ nearness, and an opportunity to partner with Regeneration. You won’t want to miss it! Even if you have to travel far, we’d love to see you. If you can’t make it and would like to give a tax-deductible donation to Regeneration, you can do so securely here.