TO KNOW AND BE KNOWN
4th Sun. of Easter,
“I AM the Good Shepherd; I know My own, and My own know Me.”
After her parents’ divorce, 7-year-old Charlotte’s mother moved her to a far away city where she was cut-off from all the other people she had ever known. She was miserable in her new home, having no contact with anyone or anything that was familiar to her. Charlotte’s mother was totally absorbed with her own problems and trying to start a new life, so it seemed useless to try to confide in even her.
On her first day going to the new school, Charlotte was afraid to get on the bus, never having ridden one before. She decided to walk. She got lost and didn’t know whom she might safely approach to ask for directions. A total, bewildering fear gripped her!
Experiences like Charlotte’s have touched us all, and at times we’ve all been bewildered, fearful, wandering, lost and lonely. Today’s thoughts are therefore based on our Good Shepherd’s words: “I know My own, and My own know Me.” May we all receive the reassuring comfort that He offers a close relationship with Himself, no matter what our individual circumstances may be! Let’s look at it from the two sides of both our “knowing” Him and “being known” by Him.
KNOWING THE LORD
“NATURAL” OR INTELLECTUAL KNOWLEDGE OF HIM IS NOT SUFFICIENT
Jesus once told the Pharisees: “You don’t know Me!” They had developed attitudes and opinions about God that blinded them to God’s Nature present in Jesus. They only sort of half-acknowledged God, in other words.
The same half-sightedness continues strong with people today. The Bible claims, for example, that the mere fact of the existence of all creation is enough evidence for people to know there is a God of power over all. St. Paul wrote: ‘What can be known about God is plain.., because God has shown it.’ St. James said that it isn’t enough for fully knowing Him, though, because ‘even the demons know about God, but it’s a matter of fear for them.’
While there’s not necessarily anything inherently wrong with going on a nature retreat or camping on occasion, it’s a sadly impoverished view when someone reasons that, “I can regularly separate myself from God’s flock at worship to admire His creative glory in nature,” for example. The feeling of closeness that may give is a false illusion if one’s spiritual life really has no more dimension than that. Trying to know and understand God from the world around us is the same sort of thing that has led millions into gross idolatry. We only get bits and pieces of information, but not all God’s qualities. People of the past projected His attributes of power and wrath onto pieces of stone and worshipped them, and people of the present persist in believing that their own personal acts and views of morality bring them close to God.
A CLOSE KNOWLEDGE IS GOD’S REVEALED GIFT
When Thomas once asked Jesus: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?,” Jesus openly stated that He, Himself, is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that whoever “knows” Him “knows” the Heavenly Father also. When Peter confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus replied that Peter’s correct understanding was granted to him from God above. A close and secure knowledge of the Lord, in other words, comes as His own revealed gift to us.
By God’s revelation St. Paul confessed what is true of us all: “I know that nothing good dwells in me; that is, in my flesh.” And earlier: “If it had not been for the Law, I should not have known sin,” and “Through the Law comes knowledge of sin.” God has clearly revealed for us that, in order to begin to really know Him, we also need to know ourselves and that in relation to Him: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray.”
That deep realization and humble admission in the inner-self that may come by the Law is the switch that turns on our beginning to be able to ‘hear His voice.’ When we can sincerely confess that we “know” we are by nature sinful and unclean, we can then be enabled to hear and see and know God’s great love for us and His fallen creation.
“My sheep hear My voice,” Jesus says. The same kind of intimate, mutual fellowship existing between Him and the Father is showered on us through trusting faith in Jesus. God’s Spirit pours into our hearts the knowledge that God so dearly loves us, that Christ’s suffering and bloodshed and death and resurrection have a very intentional and personal meaning from God! He wants us to know that right now our sin is forgiven and He aims for us to live forever in knowledge and fellowship with Him. God is known through Jesus Christ whom He sent, and through the events of His life and death which are rooted in human history!
SUCH KNOWLEDGE IS PARTIAL, BUT SUFFICIENT
It remains true that Christian believers don’t yet fully know what we will one day. “It’s not for you to know times and seasons,” Jesus told the Apostles. And St. Paul taught: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face-to-face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully even as I have been fully known.”
Our knowledge of the Lord and His will is only partial, therefore, but it is sufficient. We can confidently affirm the truth of the sayings, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future,” and “It’s not who you know, but by Whom you are known.”
BEING KNOWN BY THE LORD
“I know My own,” Jesus assures us!
SOME ARE NOT KNOWN BY HIM AND ARE NOT HIS
Some profess to know God yet deny Him by their deeds, Scripture says. They are not His own who “hold the form of religion but deny the power of it.” At the Final Judgment they may scramble to excuse themselves, claiming to have done many wonderful works in the Lord’s Name, but Jesus will harshly send them away to a place in hell with Satan, saying: “Depart from Me you evil-doers; I never knew you!”
What a terrifying prospect for those who are merely casual and not intimate with Jesus! But blessed and happy are all those whom He truly does know and truly are His!
COMFORTS FOR THIS LIFE FROM BEING KNOWN BY HIM
By faith in Christ as God’s Son, and by clinging in faith to His Cross and atoning action there on our behalf, there are many comforts for this life in His knowledge of us. For God (or Jesus) to know all things isn’t just an impersonal computer databank kind of knowledge. Perhaps the simplest way to put it is that He personally cares!
Jesus could tell any of us things like- “I know all of your life’s embarrassments, like the time you ran out of gas when you said it could never happen to you… I know all about your first date, your first day at school and everything people said to you… Your silly secrets, your scrapes and bruises, your hopes and dreams, how people have hurt you, every time you’ve been ill…” He knows and cares beyond just knowing even all the exact number of hairs on your head!
As with Peter, to be sure, Jesus also knows our every sin and denial of Him as our personal Friend and Savior, but He assures us that He carried every bit of it to the Cross and washed it away. He sympathizes with our weaknesses, holds out forgiveness when we wander, and deeply cares about our hurts and times of loneliness.
More than that, though, in His supreme graciousness Jesus also knows and remembers all our pure desires and works of service instilled in us by His love. His Word says that He “is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love you show…”, for, as St. Paul promised: “In the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Through Baptism, which connects us to Christ’s Cross and death to sin, God says He knows and even calls us by name!
More than all the comforts for believers in this life, though, is the everlasting comfort of being given recognition from God in the life to come. Not a harsh rebuke or banishment, but a joyous “Welcome” will greet each who bears the Name of Christ and His blood-bought righteousness; BECAUSE He who “knew no sin” does know US by having become one of us!
The Book of Galatians sternly warns all who have come to be known by God not to go back to acknowledging Him only part-way, or to lives of self-righteous deeds. As you look in your heart and find that you do know God by faith in Christ, though, may you also find the comfort that your Lord is there and He cares. He KNOWS YOU!