How do you know if you know someone?
To answer that, consider what it’s like to shop for a birthday present with little kids. They see a gift not through the eyes of the recipient, but only through their own. On such an excursion, there is likely a conversation something like this: “Johnny, is that something you would like or is that something mom would like?” But Johnny is thinking, “This is what I would like, so of course it’s what mom would like.”
Is this a sign of natural selfishness? To a degree, but it’s also an indication of not yet fully knowing the recipient. Think about it, five-year-olds have only begun to know their parents as anything other than the people who provide what they need.
Children this age are just beginning the discovery of knowing; a new step in maturity occurs when they shop for a gift and seek what the recipient would like, even if they don’t like it, and give according to what would bring the recipient joy. In other words, you know you know somebody when you begin to choose to lay down your preferences for theirs. And this is not a burden, but love, and you discover their happiness makes you happy too.
Now, how do you know you know God?
Many are confused by this question, but the answer is quite simple. In John 17:3 Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Eternal life, according to Jesus, is getting to know God through Jesus Christ, who was sent to open up the front door to the relationship by his death on the cross, which paid for our sin and everything that kept us from even approaching the front porch. Hearing his call, we repent, turn around, finally come home and are born again into God’s family.
Eternal life, then, becomes the never-ending adventure of getting to know God in the same way children begin to know their parents. And then we know we know God when we begin to lay down our own preferences for his. We offer our life as a gift to our Father in heaven and say, “This is for you. I finally realize this is what brings you joy: a life surrendered to the will of heaven.”
The prophet Jeremiah took this beyond theoretical when he confronted the wayward royal sons of King Josiah: “‘Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 22:13-16).
Knowing is practical, active and earthy. This is why the most mature followers of Jesus are the most selfless and most fully produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They have come to know God deeply and they are laying down their preferences for his. And it shows.
Phil Wagler (email@example.com) keeps learning to lay down his own preferences for God’s.
--Posted Sept. 10, 2014