It can sound pretty presumptuous to say, “I know God.”
“Really?” someone might ask. “Are the two of you pretty tight, or is he just an acquaintance?”
It would be a mocking question, of course, because most people today treat God either as a distant concept or as a charade played by those who take their religion sweet. So the skeptic treats all such God-talk as nonsense.
I fear that Christians often support that response by the way we live. We’re part of the problem if our lives don’t offer the sort of fabric that goes with real relationships.
I say this as part of my own conversion experience. I was ready to walk away from my childhood faith because I didn’t see it working in the lives of many church members. As a teenager I was starting to look outside my family for new points of reference and the strongest—the most authentic—adults were those living happily in a godless lifestyle. Not “wicked”, mind you, but as those who didn’t take God to be real.
My conversion was launched in part by the contrast between people who were happily and honestly free from God all week long, and the many in my church who shifted their behaviors from “normal” on weekdays to “churchy” on Sundays. To my teenage eyes it seemed that those who lacked any pretense that God exists and were still happy had more integrity than those who pretended he exists but didn’t show it in real life.
My solution was to go directly to God with the question: “God, are you really there? If you are please get in touch with me. And if you aren’t, I’ll stop being stupid.”
There it was. Since it takes two to form a conversation I asked him to step up and make it work. If he was listening and was open to speaking with me, even in his ultimate status as God, then I wanted to hear from him. Just how he might speak was up to him, but I knew it had to be an unmistakable contact. And, to be honest, I felt like it was an unlikely prospect. But I needed to at least ask. I also realized I had to drop any preconditions on my part: whatever he might say needed to be received.
The result—after an hour or so of silence—was a distinct insight that if I wanted to hear from God I should read my Bible. So I read it and for the first time discovered a clear voice in the Bible speaking through the words on the page. That is, the words in the Sermon on the Mount were clearly Christ’s words spoken to me. I was the sinner whose eyes and hands had been instruments of evil. I was the man trying to serve two masters when I really loved my own affairs and hated God’s concerns. He nailed me.
When I asked him, “What do you want from me?” he immediately answered: “Seek first the kingdom of God”. He promised to take it from there. So that’s what I did. I prayed, saying very simply: “I’m yours.” And in that moment I realized that the introduction had taken place: I now know him and I am his and he is mine.
What I also find is that for some people my story is utterly incomprehensible. I recall one instance when I asked a couple of men from a fine church, “What helps you get a better handle on God’s care for you?” They had no idea how to answer the question! It may have been the premise in the question of a knowable and relational God. In other words it may have been a question that didn’t match their versions of God and proper God-talk.
That sort of disconnect brings us to the point of the day: I think lots of secular folks see a disconnect between Christian God-talk and the way real relationships operate in daily life. The faith of some Christians is so unreal that our secular friends readily see it as a silly pretense.
That leads to the next question: when we meet Jesus on the Day of the Lord will he say, “Depart from me; I never knew you” (as in Matthew 7:23)? Or will he say, “Welcome home. I’ve been waiting for you!”