Question: "What does the Bible say about estrangement?"

Answer: Estrangement is an alienation of affection. To be estranged is to have lost the former affection and fellowship once shared with another. Warring spouses become estranged when they cannot work out their differences. Rebellious children become estranged from their parents when they refuse to be guided or disciplined. When Adam and Eve sinned, they became estranged from God (Genesis 3). People have been estranged from Him ever since, and God has been pursuing reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). Estrangement from God and His call for reconciliation are the major themes of the Bible.

Because God is holy and perfect, He cannot tolerate our sin (Ezra 9:15; Romans 6:23), and our rebellion against His commands creates estrangement from Him (Isaiah 53:6). We cannot come into His presence, expect our prayers to be heard, or walk in fellowship with God when we are covered in sin (Proverbs 28:9; Psalm 66:18; John 9:31). The result of this estrangement from God is that we walk in darkness (1 John 1:5–6; 2:11; John 12:35). Being estranged from God, we have no hope of eternal life or forgiveness of sin (John 3:19–20). Our estranged minds are full of selfishness and evil without the illuminating power of God’s righteousness to correct them (Romans 1: 18–22).

Jesus gave an example of estrangement and reconciliation in His story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11–32. The son, full of his own importance, demanded his inheritance from his father and then squandered it in wild living. While the prodigal was gone, the father continued his righteous life, yearning for the day his son would come home. The son partied his fortune away until reality jerked him to attention. He found himself starving to death in a hog pen with nothing to show for his lifestyle of debauchery. Verse 17 says, “When he came to his senses.” That describes the moment each of us must come to in order to end the estrangement from our heavenly Father. When we come to our senses, we humble ourselves and confess our sin to Him, as the prodigal son did. Only then can the estrangement end and reconciliation begin.

King David is another example of a man who had walked with God but, because of sinful choices, became estranged from Him. Second Samuel 11 records the account of David’s lust for a married woman, Bathsheba. He gave in to that lust and slept with Bathsheba, and she became pregnant. To cover his sin of adultery, David ordered her husband killed, thus compounding the sin. Chapter 12 reveals that the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David to confront him about his wickedness. David repented in brokenness and humility. His restoration prayer is recorded in Psalm 51.

Estrangement from God ends when we humble ourselves and repent (Acts 2:38; 3:19). Estrangement from other people can often be ended the same way. Pride is often the great culprit that keeps estranged relationships locked in a cold war. When one person chooses to end the standoff, confess the part he or she played in the estrangement, and ask forgiveness, the relationship can often be restored. God promises to forgive and restore anyone who comes to Him in the name of His Son, Jesus (Romans 10:12–13; John 14:6; Psalm 80:19; John 3:16–18). The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ puts an end to the estrangement from God for all who come to Him in faith (John 1:12).