I want to tell you about James Smith. James is a younger gentlemen in his early 30’s who has a love for cars, baseball, his family, and Jesus. James would consider himself a master in his profession of metal fabrication and though he is young, James is very successful at what he does. James’ career is not the most important thing to him, though. James has been with his wife, Jessica for almost 3 years now and on January 11th they announced that they were bringing a child into this world together. James and Jessica are beyond excited about the arrival of their son, whom they are naming Gunner Lee Smith.
You can tell the excitement James has for the arrival of his first son. James talks about the experiences they will have when he’s just a bit older. Since James loves cars, he wants to share his hobby with his son and since he loves baseball, he wants to take Gunner to the Kansas City Royals ball games.
James has led an eventful life thus far. Right after high school James decided to join the U.S. Air Force where he served for several years. It was there that James learned the trades that he now uses for his current career. After retiring from the Air Force, James and Jessica crossed paths which led to their marriage and the announcement of their first born, Gunner.
Here’s the deal: I don’t actually know James Smith. I went to Google and typed in “What is the most common male name in the United States?” and the overall result was James Smith. From there I went to Facebook and searched for James Smith and found the first one who didn’t have any mutual friends in common with me. I searched through James’ Facebook page for a good 10 minutes learning all I could about his life.
Social psychology will tell me that I don’t know James and that I only know about him. I learned enough personal knowledge of James from his Facebook that I was able to share pieces of his life with you. If I were to meet with James right now and sit down to have a cup of coffee with him, I would be able to effectively carry on a conversation with him and ask him about his family and his hobbies. Now, if I were to actually walk up to this James Smith and say, “Hey James! How’s Jessica? Are you excited for Gunner to get here? How excited are you to take Gunner to his first Royals baseball game? Have you made any more improvements to your 2008 Volkswagen Jetta?” James would probably look at me like I’m a crazy man because I know so much about him and he knows only that I stalked him. Social psychologists would say that I don’t know James—I know about James. What does this mean in our dealings with those around us and most importantly, what does this mean in our relationship with Jesus?
I gained impersonal knowledge of James from a quick glance at his Facebook page. This does not mean that I know him but means that I know of him. I would not be able to tell you his hopes and dreams and greatest fears, because I gained impersonal knowledge of him. This factor of impersonal knowledge and whether or not we actually know someone carries a lot of weight in our dealings with those around us. The greatest desire I see with the students I work with is not whether or not they can effectively memorize the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). The greatest desire I see with the students I work with is simply wanting someone to know them. The greatest desire among our teens is simply wanting someone to know who they are rather than someone just knowing about them. I’m under the impression that this train doesn’t just stop with the teens, but that it goes all the way throughout our lives.
I saw a story of a grandpa who cooked 12 burgers for his 6 grandchildren. You can imagine how excited this grandpa was for his grandchildren to show up and spend time with him. The time came for his grandchildren to show up but only one grandchild came. One out of twelve grandchildren showed up to hang out with their grandpa. The story went viral because the picture of this grandpa shows his emotions after his grandchildren didn’t show up. The point I see from this is that this grandpa simply wanted his grandchildren to know him. I’m sure they know about him and could tell you a few things about his life, but I doubt that trains goes any further. I’m sure some of you can relate to one degree or another.
Probably the biggest default Christians fall into in their relationship with Jesus is simply knowing about him and that knowledge not going any further. Christians gain an impersonal knowledge of Jesus and probably gave their lives to him when they were kids, but that relationship doesn’t go any further that impersonal knowledge.
If what we’re taught is to “Go and make disciples of all nations” and to “Love the Lord with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind” and to “Love our neighbors as ourselves”, then this is much deeper than impersonal knowledge. Being a genuine disciple who wants to go and make disciples means to go deeper than impersonal knowledge. Loving the Lord and loving our neighbor means to go deeper than knowing about God and knowing about a person. Knowing about a person does not equal discipleship.
As we reflect on the resurrection of Jesus, let us also reflect and act on our relationship with him and our relationship with those around us. Discipleship is a crucial element in our faith and it’s how we got from 12 guys to where we are today. Let’s reflect on these two final questions: 1). Do you just know about Jesus or do you truly know him? 2). Are you intentional with how you relate with others or do you stop the train at simply knowing about a person?
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 // Matthew 28:18-20 // Matthew 22:36-40