â€œIf anyone imagines that he has come to know and understand much [of divine things, without love], he does not yet perceive and recognize and understand as strongly and clearly, nor has he become as intimately acquainted with anything as he ought or as is necessary. But if one loves God truly [with affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, and grateful recognition of His blessing], he is known by God [recognized as worthy of His intimacy and love, and he is owned by Him].â€—I Corinthians 8:2-3 (AMP)
â€œBy this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.â€—John 13:35 (NKJV)
â€œWe can admire what we see, but we can only love what we truly know.â€—Anonymous
I have a very special and dear friend who serves as the backdrop for this message. Because I know him, I know that he likes to fly under the radar and so I wonâ€™t expose his identity (yes, you are welcome), but if you are reading this—and I will call you to make certain that you do—I want you to know that your friendship has meant the world to me; not just because you are kind-hearted and selfless; not just because you are smart, funny, creative and inspiring; not just because you have showed me so many ways to love other than what I have been accustomed to, but because you are one of the few people who really knows me and to have you love me anyway, is specialâ€¦is rareâ€¦is GODLY.
Know. How many of us can say that someone really knows us? Not the mask that we put on at work or at church. Not the â€œfront manâ€ that we put on while using the gifts that God has given us (Romans 11:29). Not the person we pretend to be when weâ€™re hanging out with our â€œfriendsâ€. No, I mean THE REAL US: the good and the bad, the stable and the loopty-loop, the constant and the contradiction. How many people know about our bad credit, our secret fetish, our hypocritical tendencies, our shady idiosyncrasies?
How many people know that you gorge on Little Debbies and a pint of ice cream every night and then run it off for two hours every morning because you are a fitness trainer?
How many people know that you preach the word every Sabbath or Sunday morning and watch porn every Saturday or Sunday night?
How many people know that you are physically abstinent but emotionally promiscuous?
How many people know that your erratic mood swings are because youâ€™re an insomniac who pops pills?
How many people know that youâ€™re a workaholic to keep from returning to alcoholism?
How many people know that you are a celebrated elementary school teacher who beats—not spanks, beats—your own children?
How many people know that you and your husband counsel couples by day and donâ€™t share a bed by night?
How many people know that youâ€™re a model but you hate the way that you look?
How many people know that when you get home you battle with the idea of committing suicide?
How many people know that you go to church and are even active on several ministries but canâ€™t stand it—â€œitâ€ being the building, the people and sometimes even God?
We all know that the Bible encourages us to â€œlove our neighbors as ourselvesâ€ (Matthew 19:19) and yet Iâ€™m willing to bet that if you polled ten of your co-workers on how many of them felt genuinely loved by those around them, you wouldnâ€™t get a high return. Now, I donâ€™t mean â€œloveâ€ in the way that the world defines it to be (I Corinthians 3:19). According to it, you can â€œloveâ€ Britney Spears one year and loathe her the next. You can â€œloveâ€ your husband in January and be ready to leave him in June (of the same year, no less). You can â€œloveâ€ your body until you gain 30 lbs. No, I mean the biblical kind of love; the kind thatâ€™s genuineâ€¦the kind that lasts (I Corinthians 13).
Ask your co-workers how many of them feel that those around them are patient with their issues—even when theyâ€™re questionable, confusing or inconvenient. Ask them how many feel like their family and friends are kind even when they are downright mean. Ask them how many people who claim to care about them are courteous even when they are rude; will give even when they know they will not get anything back; will not keep up with all the wrongs done in every single argument; do not have â€œI told you soâ€ on speed dial in every conversation; deal with the good days and badâ€¦just because. Yes, ask them and more importantly, yourself, just how many people you know (that you know that you know) loves you like that.
This is one of the things that I love about my â€œbelow the radarâ€ friend. Itâ€™s not romantic and Iâ€™m not trying to make him be my husband (headâ€™s up: sometimes we miss out on our greatest joys by trying to make something become more than what it is). But sometimes God will put someone into your life who is a reflection of him. The beautiful thing about experiencing this person is that if I die tonight, I KNOW that there is at least one person I KNOW THAT I KNOW THAT I KNOW loves me because no matter what he sees, he hears, he witnesses, he knows (and it has been quite a bit), the love is still there.
You know, a miraculous thing happens when you encounter a love like that. You canâ€™t help but grow, progress, transition into more than what you were before you had that experience because there isnâ€™t any fear holding you back from those possibilities (I John 4:18).
The Enemy knows this. Thatâ€™s why he tries to keep us from encountering it.
As I was in prayer about this whole â€œlove/knowâ€ concept, God took me to three things. First, it was the definition of the word â€œknowâ€:
Know: to perceive or understand as fact or truth; to apprehend clearly and with certainty; to be cognizant or aware of; to be able to distinguish, as one from another; to have a practical understanding of, as through experience; be skilled in; to possess knowledge, understanding, or information.
Then he took me to one of the most simple, concise, profound and mind-boggling scriptures in the Bible:
â€œBe still, and know that I am Godâ€¦â€—Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)
And then to a story in the Bible:
â€œAfter breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”
Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.”
Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.â€—John 21:15-19 (Message)
â€œShellie, do you know why itâ€™s hard for people to serve me, to trust me, to follow me? Itâ€™s because they donâ€™t know me. You canâ€™t â€œbe stillâ€ in the midst of chaos and questions and have faith that I have the answers unless you know me to have the character of someone who is reliable, faithful and a miracle worker. People who do not follow me are simply people who do not know me. If they took the time to really know my nature, loving me and serving me would come naturally.
In the same regard, so many of you have fear of loving and being loved by others because you wonâ€™t let people really know you, either. Only love can change a person and while you can spend time with or entertain someone else, you canâ€™t love what you donâ€™t know. There are plenty of people married to one another but donâ€™t know one another. There are plenty of friends who hang out with one another but donâ€™t know one another. There are plenty of people in ministry who serve one another but donâ€™t know one another. Itâ€™s not the sins, the issues, the challenges that are breaking up relationships; itâ€™s the lack of intimacy, the inability to really know and be known.
When youâ€™re so caught up in hiding yourself, you canâ€™t trust someone to love you. When youâ€™re so addicted to living a double-life, you canâ€™t let someone love you.
When youâ€™re so used to doing what people want instead of asking for what you really need, you donâ€™t know how to let someone love you.
Do you know why you should believe that I love you? Because I know youâ€¦better than you know yourself (Jeremiah 1:5). Thereâ€™s nothing you could ever do or say that would make me not love you. When you get to a place where you really believe that, you will not be the same.
Do you know how you can get people to believe that you really love them? By extending this same kind of courtesy. Are there consequences for actions? Most certainly, but the removal of love should never be one of them. When those I place into your care come to understand that YOU LOVE THEM NO MATTER WHAT, in a world that is so selfish, so greedy, so malicious, so self-serving, trust me, they will not be able to help but become less selfish, less greedy, less malicious, less self-serving because when you know there is no condition placed on patience, kindness, trust, hope and endurance (I Corinthians 13), you remove yourself from the bondage of fear, doubt, fakeness, secrets—-anything that keeps you from revealing your authentic self. And, itâ€™s in seeing who you really are that you can grasp hold of the vision of who you are called and meant to be.â€
Wow. Thatâ€™s something else, isnâ€™t it? Again, I am reminded that everything that the Enemy does is a counterfeit version of Godâ€™s intention. The Word of God says that we are not to bare false witness against our neighbors (Exodus 2)16). The Word of God says that in confessing our faults we become healed (James 5:16). The Word of God says that it is noble to share difficulties with one another (Philippians 4:14). Yet, the Enemy tells us that lying about our age, our status, our past, our strongholds is the only way to get people to like us (by the way, the Word doesnâ€™t put a lot of stock in likeâ€¦love and respect are whatâ€™s most important). The Enemy tells us that holding in our transgressions is the only way to â€œfit inâ€. The Enemy tells us that we canâ€™t trust anyone with our needs, struggles, difficulties but ourselves.
According to God and the life that Christ led on this earth, this couldnâ€™t be further from the truth (John 8:32). Christ told Peter that if he loved him, he must feed and shepherd his sheep; this means his children. Sure there may be times when you will need to give someone who is hungry food, but another definition of â€œfeedâ€ is â€œto satisfy; minister to; gratifyâ€ and synonyms for the word include â€œnourishâ€, â€œsustainâ€, â€œnurtureâ€, â€œsupportâ€, â€œencourageâ€, â€œbolsterâ€. Itâ€™s real hard to support someone when you donâ€™t KNOW whatâ€™s going on with them. Itâ€™s real hard to nurture someone when you donâ€™t KNOW where they are lacking. Itâ€™s real hard to minister to an area that no one is admitting they are suffering with (which is whatâ€™s wrong with a lot of our churches, but thatâ€™s another message entirely).
As you head into this week, think about all of the people you claim to know and think about all of the people who claim to know you. Now think about all of the people you claim to love and who claim to love you. When you think about it, how do you really know that you know them/they know you? How do you really know that you love them/they love you?
So often, God and love (which is synonymous, by the way—I John 4:8) get a bad rap because we would rather be popular, famous, liked, praised—-all of the things which readily accept the facades, the shells, the masks that so many of us have. But, the truth is that until we love and are loved, we will never be truly satisfied because we will always question and wonder if we would still be popular, famous, liked, praised if we were really known. This only sends us into the cycle of doing more to be popular, more to be famous, more to be liked, more to be praised because we forget that the only emotion which has no condition on it is love.
I donâ€™t know about you, but Iâ€™m tired for killing myself for the temporary, the counterfeit, the substitute. The next time I say â€œI love youâ€ to someone, I want to mean all three words: I know me and I love you because I know you.
Thank you, God and thank you â€œmy friendâ€ for reminding me today that this kind of love is not only possible, but spiritually intentional and necessary for all of us to thrive and survive.
Now, I know.
Â©Shellie R. Warren/2007