What does it mean to know someone?

A number of years ago, I was editing a video.  In it a man shared his life story.  He was relatively old, and there was a whole lot of footage.  A personal conflict had prevented me from being able to do the recording, so I’d never met him.  For several weeks, I poured my every free moment into editing his life.  He had experienced some incredible hardships, but the twinkle in his eye, friendly demeanor, and the sense of who he was won me over.  As I watched the story of his life again and again trimming and tightening his story, I felt I’d come to know him.

A few weeks later, I ran into him at an event.  Warmly I hailed him from across the room, one friend to another, only to be greeted with a cold stare and his retreating back.  I didn’t really know him.  I only knew about him.  I had confused knowledge with relationship.

This story came to me this week as I was thinking about Jesus.  In this part of Germany, you can barely go ten steps without seeing a “Jesus.”  He’s been carved from wood and stone, cast in plaster, painted, and cut from tiny shards of glass.  You can find him on the sides of buildings, in any one of thousands of churches, or even on the side of the road.  Almost no matter where you look there is a cold lifeless figure of Jesus.  In general I attribute the best of intentions to the people that scattered Jesus’ image all over the world, but I wonder, does it really help?

Do you know Jesus?  Or do you just know about him?  Do you have a relationship with him or just knowledge about him?  Please don’t confuse the two.  Relationship with Jesus will change your life.  If you don’t see the evidence of that, the little changes day by day that are radically impacting you and your choices, I would challenge you to get to know him better.  It won’t necessarily make you healthy, wealthy, or wise.  In fact, I think in many cases it will lead to struggle, possibly even suffering.  At the same time, neither wealth nor getting our way all of the time can bring us happiness, just look at our Hollywood icons.  (More people we know all about, without really knowing.)  A life of virtually endless money, surrounded by sycophants who indulge their every whim, yet very few of them seem happy.  What knowing Jesus can give you is better than money, better even than happiness.  There is a Joy in Jesus Christ, a hope that life in the future will be better, a contentment in living where he places you that doesn’t exist anywhere else in life.  Living in relationship with Jesus isn’t easy, but it is incredible!

This past week I got a chain email.  I really don’t like chain letters, and determined a long time ago that no matter what the letter contained, if it pressured me in any way to send it on, I wouldn’t.  As they so often are, this email was a “forward this on if you really love Jesus” email.  I struggled a bit with guilty feelings about not forwarding it on.  However, a question struck me and I read it through again.  There was nothing in this email, nothing at all, that would reveal the character of Jesus to someone who didn’t already know him.  That’s what inspired this message.  I want you to know that if you reach out to Jesus he will not glare coldly and walk away.  He loves you and desperately desires relationship with you.  He gave up being God to come down to earth and live with all the same conflicting wants, unmet needs, passions and sufferings you experience today, and then he was brutally beaten, murdered, and he overcame death.  He did this, not because he needed to, but so that he could have a relationship with you.  No one else in your life will ever go to these lengths to try to know you.  Don’t stare coldly and turn away.  Take the opportunity of a life time.  Jesus loves you.

If you want to forward this on to your friends, feel free.  However, please do not include any guilt trip inducing language as though somehow punching the forward button on your email is living out the great commission.  🙂

Learn more about Jesus here.

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3 Replies to “What does it mean to know someone?”

  1. Perhaps, but all Christians know this already, and don’t need any chain letter telling them about Jesus’s attitude. As a Christian, I get right put out with this type of letter since it is in fact a chain letter dressed up to look like religion, and way too many non-Christians already can’t tell the difference between real Christianity and chain letter spam. I also feel rather patronized and talked down to by any fwd that tries to preach anything at all to me. Also, it does cause a lot of anti-Christian backlash, and the general belief among a lot of other netizens that Christians believe in hoaxes and are rather dim bulbs because they pass on chain letters. I wouldn’t even encourage taking up space on a blog for this stuff. Your own words will always be far more valuable and a better witness for God than any chain forward.

  2. Capri, thanks for reading. Honestly, I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. In general, you seem to be in agreement with my sentiments on chain letters, but at the same time I get the impression your chastising me for something. Maybe you can clarify what you’re saying for me. I made the decision, rather than forward on a religious pretense, or choose not to say anything, to instead try to share my faith in a meaningful way. Do you think that’s the wrong response to chain letter spam? It seemed an excellent use of my blog space to me.

  3. Ted,
    Thank you for expressing so beautifully the difference between knowing about someone and knowing them.

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