Charlie was a good friend of mine. He was on the church council, so we worked together there. Our wives got along and our kids were about the same age, so we spent time together as families. And we had a lot in common, so we became good friends. One time I was trying to make a joke about something. I don’t remember what I said, but I noticed Charlie wasn’t laughing. Then it occurred to me, that because of something Charlie was going through in his life, my thoughtless joke hit a little too close to home. I realized I might have made him angry. I immediately apologized and said I did not mean to offend him. And Charlie said, “Don’t worry about it. I know you would never intentionally say anything to hurt me. We all say stupid things. Forget it.” And the conversation continued on as usual.
Charlie immediately gave me the benefit of the doubt and was not angered because he knew me. When I said something stupid and hurtful, he did not right away think the worst of me. Rather, he overlooked it. I would have done the same for him. We were friends.
Did you ever say the wrong thing to someone and regret it? What happened? Well, it depends on who you said it to, doesn’t it? If it was someone you knew well and with whom you had a good relationship, it probably went okay. But if it was someone who you did not get along with, or did not know very well, it might well have been taken as an insult, even if you did not intend it to be mean or insulting.
Psalm 36:10 is addressed to God and says, “Continue your love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart.” To those who know you, it says.
Do you know God? What does it mean to know God? How does that work? We can pray to God, but it is a pretty one-sided conversation. I can’t get to know God in exactly the same way I got to be friends with Charlie.
However, even though the relationship is not the same as with another person, our relationship with God does not have to be only one-sided. We can talk to God in our prayers, one-sided as they are; and God speaks to us in His Word. Knowing God means knowing something about God, and we can learn all kinds of things about God in the Bible. But that happens only if we are listening to that side of the conversation by spending time with the Bible– just like good friends spend time together.
Our relationship with God will be tested, just like any relationship is tested. My friendship with Charlie was tested when I said something stupid. Charlie knew me, so he knew how to take my remark. God, we believe, is all-powerful, and God should be able to do for me whatever I need done. So if God doesn’t come through for me, the relationship faces a test. “Why me, God? Why didn’t you help me, Lord? Why don’t you answer my prayers?,” etc. We know God is all powerful, but there are other things we also need to know about God. And the more we know about God and how He deals with us, the more we will trust God, and the more able our relationship with God will be able to handle these tests. The Psalmist encourages us to know God because if we don’t know God very well, we might immediately think the worst of God when there is something we don’t understand.
The other day I saw a big sign on the side of a city bus that said, “There’s probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
How do you respond to that little bit of advice? The implication is that believing in God is mostly a source of worry that will make you unable to enjoy life. Therefore, forget God (there is probably no god anyway), and then you don’t have to worry about being good, and then you can enjoy your life.
Do you find that convincing? Troubling? I don’t, because I don’t accept any of the premises behind that statement, premises which have an entirely false concept of God. I can quickly dismiss that bit of nonsense because I know something about God.
Someone else, however, might find that advice convincing and appealing. They might not know much about God, and therefore imagine God to be nothing more than such a harsh rule-giver and punisher. So, ‘no god, no problem.’ But I would want to ask them how well they know God, and inquire about their source of information.
Faith in God is not always easy, and how well you know God will determine how able you are to handle challenges such as unanswered prayer, unresolved family issues, movies that ridicule your faith, or a sign on a bus. A part of faith is knowing God, and knowing God means knowing something about God. This doesn’t mean everyone has to be an expert in the Bible and theology. But a faith that knows nothing about God is a fragile faith. (continued…)
Psalm 36:10 — Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart.
Psalm 46:10 — He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Philippians 3:7-8a — Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.
–St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)