You were made in the image of God. If then you wish to resemble him, follow his example. Since the very name you bear as Christians is a profession of love for men, imitate the love of Christ.
Reflect for a moment on the wealth of his kindness. Before he came as a man to be among men, he sent John the Baptist to preach repentance and lead men to practice it. John himself was preceded by the prophets, who were to teach the people to repent, to return to God and to amend their lives. Then Christ came himself, and with his own lips cried out: Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. How did he receive those who listened to his call? He readily forgave them their sins; he freed them instantly from all that troubled them. The Word made them holy; the Spirit set his seal on them. The old Adam was buried in the waters of baptism; the new man was reborn to the vigor of grace.
What was the result? Those who had been God’s enemies became his friends, those estranged from him became his sons, those who did not know him came to worship and love him.
Remember the parable of the shepherd who had one hundred sheep? When one of them was separated from the flock and lost its way, the shepherd went to look for the stray. When he found it, he did not chastise it; he did not use rough blows to drive it back, but gently placed it on his own shoulders and carried it back to the flock. This teaches us that we should not look on men as lost or beyond hope. We should not abandon them when they are in danger, or be slow to come to their help. When they turn away from the right path and wander, we must lead them back and rejoice at their return, welcoming them back into the company of those who lead good and holy lives.
First, are we leading good and holy lives? If we aren’t, then the first step is to change our ways. Second, how kind are we? If someone has left the Church are we still willing to rush to his/her help? Have we forgiven them for leaving, if they return will we rejoice or chastise them for going? No one is beyond hope, not those who have left the Church, not even us. kvs with St. Asterius of Amasea, bishop.