Friday, June 5, 2009

Knowing God

What does it mean to know God? How can one know someone who cannot be so small as to be completely knowable by limited human minds (since, by definition, he is so great as to deserve to be worshiped)?

I have no delusions of being able to comprehend God. But does that mean I can't know him? I don't believe that I truly comprehend my best friends, either, but I would certainly say that I know them--even that I know them well. So how can I get to know the invisible, omnipotent, inaccessible Ruler of the Universe in the way that I know my friends? I can't really call God up to come over to my house and sit around and watch movies or play "Would you rather?" The stereotypical churchy answer is something based on "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

Seek God by praying, and reading your Bible, and singing hallelujahs and paying attention in the quiet moments. Stir well, season with Christian community to taste, and cook for five to ten years (cooking time varies depending on your life-oven's spiritual background). Ta-da! Recipe for knowing God. But formulae ought to be questioned.

I was reading several chapters earlier in Jeremiah, and came across this: "'Is that not what it means to know me?' declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 22:16) What does it mean to know God? This verse has God's own answer to the question. Here's the whole verse:
"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 22:16)
Funny--it doesn't say anything about the regularity of one's quiet times, or the dedication of one's prayer life, or the number of scripture passages one has memorized. "What it means to know [God]" is to have "defended the cause of the poor and needy."

How disquieting! How inconvenient and unnerving. I can't just ensure social justice from the comfort of my home with ten minutes every morning. I would like knowing God to be a nice, safe, step-by-step paint-by-numbers type of process, but this verse says it's about taking real action. Nothing that sounds religious, really. Defend the cause of the people who need it. Social justice--isn't that for those liberal atheist Democrats? WRONG.

How extremely, extremely inconvenient.

But a God who works based on what's convenient for me would be no God at all.

p.s. It's not just that one verse. In Colossians 1:10, doing good works and growing in the knowledge of God are paired, as though they happen simultaneously; and 1 John 2:4 says it's impossible to know God without obeying his commands.

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