Have you ever known someone for a while, gotten comfortable with them, and stopped getting to know them?
You gave up digging deeper. You quit asking questions. You assumed that you already knew all that you needed to know. But humans are complex. Even though we may give up getting to know someone, you could spend a lifetime studying another human. Suddenly the person you thought you knew may do something that surprises you.
If this is true about humans, how much more is there to know about their Creator?
I started learning about God as a child. Back then, I learned simple things, like we do about our parents. I learned that God is good and God loves me. Over time, my knowledge of God broadened and became more nuanced. Things that once confused us about our parents later become clear as we understand their history and personalities better. The same happened as I began to understand God better. I learned that God is both merciful and just. I learned that He wanted the best for my life but that it may not be what I think is best or what I want at first.
Then at some point, it was as if I stopped learning anything new. I felt comfortable with God. Of course, I didn’t understand everything, but rather I gave up trying. I assumed that I’d have to wait until heaven to learn more.
But I’ve been reading the stories of Christians who seemed to know God in a different way. One still prayed to know God more closely, more intimately, even after decades of being a pastor. He hadn’t given up. God still fascinated him.
I thought maybe I was missing out on something. So I started praying to know God more. I wanted him to show me something new.
If you don’t want your life to change, don’t pray this. There are a few prayers God will always answer. These are the most dangerous prayers. How he answers is often unexpected or even the reverse of what you actually wanted. You only realize later that you didn’t know what you were asking. But God answered.
A religious man invited Jesus to have a meal in his house, and a woman with a particular reputation found out about it (Luke 7:36-50). She showed up uninvited, looking for Jesus. She brought with her an expensive perfume and poured it on his feet. Weeping, she wiped his feet with her hair and kissed them. The host was indignant at this display. He assumed that Jesus would not allow her to touch him if only he knew who she was.
Jesus then told a story about a gracious moneylender who forgave the debts of two men. One of these owed ten times as much as the other, but neither could pay off what they owed. Jesus asked which of the men would love the moneylender more. The host said, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” Clearly.
Then Jesus explained that the reason the woman showed such a display of affection was because she had been forgiven of her many sins. She had more reason to love Jesus that anyone else in the room.
But…she was not the only debtor in the room. In the story, neither debtor could pay his debt. Even though one owed less in comparison, it was still an enormous amount. There was really no point comparing. Whether they owed more or less, both debtors needed forgiveness. Yet the religious man was oblivious of his own need for forgiveness. He was too focused on the woman’s sinfulness to notice his own.
Because of this ignorance, he could not know Jesus in the intimate way that she did. He had no love for Jesus. He failed to offer his guest a kiss in greeting, water to wash his feet, and oil to put on his head. All of these were the typical signs of hospitality at that time, but the host did not carry out even these basic customs to welcome his guest. Unlike the woman, he did not really know who he had invited to his house.
There are times that God reveals who He is by first showing us who we are. Like the religious host, we cannot fully understand God’s love, mercy, or forgiveness unless we see our sin. It is when we see our sin in its proper proportions that we can finally grasp the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice and salvation. The woman who kissed Jesus’ feet had seen this. The religious man had not. To know God, we need the right perspective of who we are.
God answered my prayer by showing me a mirror. He made me face the ugliness in my heart that I was trying to cover up. It was only in this way that he could reveal what was holding me back from knowing him more deeply. Any sin that we keep and coddle will also keep us from getting close to God. When we let go of those sinful thoughts and behaviors, we find greater freedom and ability to pursue God.
At the same time, we see fresh layers of God’s amazing grace. In my own case, I was surprised by his patience and faithfulness despite my distracted heart. It also deepened my appreciation for the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, that fully and once-for-all paid the penalty of my sins. I celebrate his resurrection from the grave as proof that he has saved me from what I justly deserve and given me true and eternal freedom.
And now, I love him more than ever before.
What is holding you back from knowing him?