Ben really likes Jenny. He adores her. Finally, he musters up the courage to ask Jenny out on a date. She says yes, and he is thrilled. Over the dinner, Ben is unable to contain himself. He suddenly proclaims to Jenny how much he loves her.
“But wait,” Jenny exclaims. “You don’t really know me!”
“That doesn’t matter!” Ben hurriedly replies. “I know my feelings are real, and that’s what’s important! I don’t need to know you to love you!”
Jenny leaves. For good reason.
What’s wrong with this picture? Sure, Ben seems a little overly emotional, but that’s alright. What’s wrong is that Ben’s love for Jenny isn’t really rooted in anything except how he feels about her. And when he proclaims his love for her, Jenny isn’t convinced at all. He doesn’t know her, so his feelings probably are not really for her but for his picture of her.
We cannot love something we don’t know. The little story seems a little humorous, because we recognize that Ben’s affection might be a little ridiculous.
But isn’t that how many of us perceive our relationship with God?
How many times have you heard someone say what Ben said, about God? Things like, “We don’t need theology. We just need to love God.” Or how about “We can’t put God in a box. We don’t need to do that to love Him.” If we have that understanding of our relationship with God, then we are just like Ben! We believe that we really love God, yet we either don’t want to know anything about Him, or we think any knowledge of Him hinders our own affection for Him.
That’s a problem. A really big problem. Or to put it even stronger, it might be idolatry.
Wasn’t that the problem with many people that loved Jesus in the Gospels? Great crowds followed Him everywhere. They saw Him heal, cast out demons, and feed thousands of people. In John 6, we read that the crowd that was fed went looking for Jesus. They wanted to “take him by force and make him king.” (Jn 6:15) But Jesus knows their hearts, and revealed their hearts. They were seeking Jesus, not because they believe in who He is, but because they ate their fill. Jesus, to them, was convenient – a solution to all their problems. They followed Him, but in reality, they did not really know who they were following.
But you might say, “God is so vast! How can we know Him, unless we put Him in a box? Isn’t that idolatry too?” To that I say, yes; God is infinitely vast, and to know Him requires Him to condescend Himself in a way where we can comprehend. If we put God in a box and worship it, it is certainly idolatry. But the beauty of it is, that God put Himself in a box, for us to know Him. He did that through Jesus, and by teaching us in the Bible. We call that theology.
John 1:18 tells us just that! It says: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The only God at the Father’s side is none other than Jesus! Jesus has made the Father known! Take another passage in John 4. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman: “You worship what you do not know; we [the Jews] worship what we know… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (Jn 4:24) When Jesus came, He ushered in a time where Jews and Gentiles can worship the Father in spirit and truth. No longer will we worship what we do not know. Jesus changes everything!
Jesus said to a crowd of Pharisees: “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19) This is a startling statement to the Pharisees, who prided themselves as leaders of the Law and true worshippers of God. Yet, Jesus tells them that they do not know the Father. But the way to know God is through Jesus.
If we call ourselves Christians, we must know God to love Him. Otherwise, it is affection for something other than God. We shouldn’t think that theology causes us to love God less. Instead, knowing more about God causes us to love Him that much more! When we study the Bible, we see that God is merciful, gracious, loving, kind, just, and all powerful. How much more can we love God when we savor who He is!
Paul writes in Philippians 3:8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul knows Jesus, and worships and loves Jesus. So we too must know Jesus, and worship and love Him. Knowledge and love go hand in hand.
Let’s take a look back at Ben.
What if Ben knew Jenny? If he took her out to her favorite Italian restaurant, and then out to her favorite ice skating rink? What if he told her that he notices how she spends her Saturdays at the soup kitchen, and that finds her lovely because of it? What if, after spending time with her and getting to know her well, Ben tells Jenny that he loves her? Wouldn’t that make Ben’s love properly directed, and make Jenny feel loved?
What if we set out to know the God we love?