Our family has departed from Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Scotland, and California with major life moves that invariably separated us from our material possessions to some degree. With only personal belongings and a few other items, we engaged in this very difficult aspect of life…separation. The most troubling aspect was separation from people we loved in those places, who endeared themselves to us during our vaporous stays. Separation is painful; but we are overcomers, conquering separation through the Spirit of Christ (Jn 14:17; Heb 13:5).
Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39d). Christians thrive in Christian community. We, who share our common faith in Christ (Jude 3), receive the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14; Phil 2:1), at the point of God’s sovereign act of regeneration (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Cor 12:13; 1 Pet 1:3). From the glorious moment of our spiritual birth, we remain in permanent communion with God because of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11). There is no separating us from God, nor His everlasting lovingkindness (Jer 31:3).
The church is a communion of Spirit-filled people, called out from the world, who are being made holy by the Spirit and Word of God (Jn 17:17; 1 Cor 1:30; 1 Thess 4:3). We share a common life in God’s Spirit (1 Cor 6:17). Because we remain in a world of sin, it is not a perfect communion, nor community. Still, it is the best configuration of relationships in the world. It retains the hope of perfection in heaven (1 Cor 15:19), where the perfect church resides with her perfect Christ (Eph 2:6; Phil 1:23).
Each Spirit-indwelt Christian is a gift of God given to other Christians. The body of Christ is comprised of members (Eph 3:6), intricately connected to one another by God directing our steps (Prv 3:5–6). Providence gives us our place in the world. It gives us our life situation, and this includes our personal relationships with other Christians. Our encounters are divinely appointed.
Recognizing the relative worthlessness of material possessions in the world, the real treasure in life is the people we interact with on our journey (Lk 16:9). Our brothers and sisters in Christ are priceless (1 Jn 3:16–17). Lackadaisical handling of invaluable relationships can lead to great grief at the unexpected death of a loved one. We may also lament our indolent spirit, when we move away from someone special to us, or a vital group of people God has used in the sanctification process. We get one another for a season. Our mistake is to delude ourselves into thinking separation is not coming to us.
Separation is the sour taste of proemial hell on earth, but it serves as foul tasting medicine that God works for our good (Rom 8:28). It is a stinging cordial to remedy our maladies. It cuts through our materialistic misappropriations. It also liberates us from idolatrous relationships. Sometimes, we have grieved the Spirit of God because someone has become more important to us than God. That person is in the wrong place in our lives. God is certain to remove this human obstacle, or reduce the relationship through some other form of estrangement. This can be very painful, but it is for our good. God must be first in our lives. Christ must be central. To love one another, we must first love God.
Heaven is the antithesis of separation (Is 65–66; Rev 21–22). It is the epitome of communion. When we enter God’s rest, we do so together (1 Thess 4:17). The ingathering of the saints in time, and in the world, is a foretaste of the heavenly ingathering (Mt 24:31; Mk 13:27). Death is a doorway for the Christian to enter His Sabbath rest (Phil 1:23; Heb 4:9). It is a glorious reunion at a family gathering where everyone gets along with one another. This is one way sin is seen as the great separator. When holidays are upon us, and tense family reunions abound, wrong words and wrong actions can easily produce memories that maintain our separation in the future. Glorification will solve all of our disaffections. Heavenly communion is holy and happy communion.
The Bible is an honest book about the present separations in peoples’ lives. God’s people are not exempt. All of humanity must taste Adam’s rebellion, and we suffer the consequences. Adam was alienated from God and disconnected from Eve.
We are all subject to separation, but we do not mourn as others do. Separation is temporary. King David would eventually go to be with his dead baby boy (2 Sam 12:23). Tears of separation were shed for Lazarus, but Jesus’ brought him back into communion with the living (Jn 11). God shall soon wipe away every tear from His children’s eyes (Rev 7:17; 21:4).
Christian hope is remembering the hope of glory. Glory is eternal communion in loving community. We will all gather at the River (Rev 22:2). A place is prepared for us by Jesus Himself, the second Adam (Jn 14:2–3). The Spirit is given as God’s pledge of a future and a hope (2 Cor 5:5). We have partial communion, but it is a mere earnest of full communion forthcoming (Rev 21–22). Rightly understood, separation produces hope of reunion, in our longing for heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 11:16).
There is joy heading home to be with loved ones. The kingdom of God is joy in the Spirit (Rom 14:17). Like a plane ticket home, the believer in Jesus is holding a token in her hand (Ps 119), in her heart (2 Cor 5:5). Christians count it all joy in suffering (Jas 1:2) because our vicinity to the door of death comes with a stronger aroma of the holiday feast of heaven on the other side. The marriage supper of the Lamb is one breath away from the saint (Rev 19:9). The pleading is fervent, “Come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20).” We want to be home for the holidays that never end.
For our brothers and sisters in Christ in Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Scotland, California, our good-byes came seasoned with memories. The fusion of sweet and sour brought us memories to be savored. God’s recipe never fails to deliver new flavors of experience to be relished and recounted in the telling of tales of high adventure with Jesus. Those left behind have become part of our story in Christ. It has been our joy to journey with them at each pilgrim’s stop. Our path and progress are as sure as the One who calls us to come home. There are new family relationships waiting in every place, until we are indeed called home to glory.
We urge you, like the apostle Paul, to be on guard for the savage wolves ever among us (Lk 10:3; Acts 20:29). They wish to divide and separate us; but we must always pursue peace and the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3). God is our guide (Jn 16:13), our Help in ages past (Jn 14:26), and the supplier of all our present needs (Phil 4:19). Be encouraged beloved sojourners, you have the sun of righteousness in you (Mal 4:2), and we are grateful you have enlightened our lives and melted our hearts with your great affection for us (Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 2:8). We have loved you in person, and we continue to love you in the Spirit, for nothing can ultimately separate us from Christ or from one another. Forever together with you in His love.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 6, 2021