Monday, December 26, 2016

Do We Know Who We Know?

Occasionally we hear or read about someone accused of committing a heinous crime, and a friend or family member defends the person, stating, “Well, I know so-and-so, and he/she would never do that.” Do they know for certain? We just experienced a very contentious Presidential election, ending with many of us voting for the candidate we “knew” would be best for the job.

Have you ever attended a wedding ceremony, watching the couple exchange their vows, and thinking, “Man, they really don’t have any idea what they’re doing!” Because the fact is, no matter how long a courtship is, two people never really know each other until they begin to permanently live under the same roof. Even then it typically takes years to genuinely know the other individual.

Watching the news, or entertainment shows, we think we know a certain celebrity or dignitary – but we don’t. We only know what’s presented to us, what we perceive from outward appearances, and what others say about them. Do we really “know” the Kardashians? Or Princess Kate? Or Morgan Freeman?

During the election campaign, what we knew about Trump, Clinton or Sanders was largely what the news media carefully and selectively offered to us. But we couldn’t honestly say we knew them.  For instance, what’s their favorite color? Favorite food? Musical preferences? Do they snore? Boxers or briefs?

There is only one sure way of knowing a person, any person. That’s to spend time with them. The more time spent with them, usually the better we get to know them. We can observe someone at work and think they’re wonderful. We might hear a persuasive speaker and think, “Wouldn’t it be fun to be that person’s close friend?” But as many of us have painfully discovered, outward appearances can woefully deceive. Only when we spend time with people do we discover what they’re actually like.

How about knowing God? What does it mean when we declare, “I know the Lord”? Maybe one time we walked an aisle, raised a hand, or marked a card to indicate a commitment to Jesus Christ. But do any of those acts signify having an intimate, everyday relationship with Him?

I can think of several people who would tell you they “know” God, but evidence in their lives would attest to the contrary. Saying we know doesn’t necessarily mean we know. As the Bible tells us, “You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19). And the Scriptures assure that we won’t be troubled by demons in heaven. Knowing God in the redemptive, life-transforming way means much more than intellectual knowledge or belief.

To me, to know God is similar in some ways to knowing a spouse or cherished friend. We want to spend time with them; we do spend time with them, and over time, we come to know them better and better.

Relationships – human and spiritual – don’t grow through hit-and-miss, casual interactions. They require not only time, but also the investment of ourselves. We want to be with those we love, to the extent that we miss them dearly when we’re not with them.

Psalm 63:1 describes what this can look like for someone who truly knows the Lord and desires to be with Him. “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” This psalm, attributed to King David, communicates a deep, intense yearning to be in the presence of the God he knew and trusted. No wonder he’s described as a man with “a heart after God” (Acts 13:22), despite his grievous lapses into sin.

In many respects, like David, we’re living in a “dry and weary land,” at least in a spiritual sense. All the more reason we should thirst and long for time with the Lord, whether through prayer and time reading and studying the Scriptures, associating with like-minded believers, or seeking to be active participants in His work here on earth.

One day we’ll see Him face to face, as 1 John 3:2 promises: “…when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Do we know Him, the way we “know” Miley Cyrus, Lebron James or Bill Gates – or do we know Him?

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