Can we really know each other?
Do we really know each other?
Because there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone. We often know a lot of things about each other. For example, we can know someone's name, their age, where they live, what they do for a living, and whether they like Marmite or not – but that is not the same thing as knowing them. Knowing is somehow deeper, and it is not just about collecting and retaining information or data about a person.
To fully know someone there needs to be a connection between them and our whole selves – between our body, mind, and spirit; body to body, mind to mind, and spirit to spirit. This is why it can take a lifetime to truly know someone and, to be honest, I wonder if any of us are truly knowable in our entirety.
Many of us struggle to know ourselves, let alone anyone else knowing us! Therefore in life, even when we think we know someone, we really only know them in part. Yet, perhaps our deepest desire, if we are truly honest, is to be fully known; to be fully loved, fully understood, and fully accepted. Being fully known is that for which we long.
When I was 18 years old, I remember my first hitch-hiking experience. I was very nervous and wondered if I would get picked up by an axe-murdering psychopath, however, I decided to be brave and give it a go. I stood by the edge of the road and stuck out my thumb. It was not long before an old couple pulled up in their car and I hopped in the back seat. I was so nervous and half expecting them to invite me back to their remote farm to show me their scythe collection, but instead they asked me a question that changed my life for ever. They asked me, “Do you know Jesus?”
I answered that, yes, I did know Jesus, however, it was only after they had dropped me off at my destination that I realised I had not answered them truthfully. You see, they had asked me if I knew Jesus, and the truth was I knew all about Jesus but that I did not know him – and that was a very important difference. Knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus were not the same thing.
So, I delved back into what had been written about Jesus in the Bible, and discovered that Jesus again and again expressed that he wanted his followers to know him and be known by him, and it struck me that God's greatest desire is to be known. God wants to reveal himself to us. He wants his love to be felt by us. He wants to connect with us. He wants to reach us. And the greatest expression of his wanting to reach us was to become one of us and give himself for us – through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
For example, there is this bit in John's gospel where Jesus is pounced on by some over-religious dudes, and Jesus says to them, “You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them life in all its fullness – now and for ever – and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. I and the Father are one.”
If the greatest human desire is to be fully known – to be loved, understood, and accepted – and Jesus is saying that we can know and be fully known by God, then perhaps our deepest longing can be fulfilled! And if that is the case then surely it is worth pursuing or at least trying it to see if it is true? What is there to lose? Nothing. Therefore, the million-dollar question is, how can we know and be known by God?
Well, relationships take time. And, writing this, I wonder if that is part of the point. Getting to know someone and them getting to know you is a wonderful and exciting journey. It is something to be treasured and enjoyed. It is like slowly unwrapping a present or enjoying the most wonderful six-course gourmet meal. And this applies to not only our relationships with others but also our relationship with God.
God wants to get to know us and I sometimes wonder if the omnipotent, all-knowing God holds back so He too can enjoy the experience. He also wants us to get to know him, and yes, it may take a lifetime or more! And as we give ourselves to God in body, mind, and spirit, many of us join with others doing the same thing. Perhaps that is what church is? It is not a place where we follow a bunch of rules or follow prescribed formulas, but a group of people journeying in a communal relationship as we learn to love, understand, and accept God in and through each other.
So, may you come to know and be known by the almighty and living God. May God bless all your earthly relationships. May you be transformed by his love, to become more understanding and more accepting. And may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, keep you and remain with you – and all those you love – now and for ever. Amen.
• Reverend Gavin Tyte is the pastor at St Mark’s Anglican Church. Visit stmarks.bm