by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
Have you ever had trouble recognizing someone, perhaps someone you’d known for years? I think most of us have. I know I certainly have. The late President Ronald Reagan once approached a man at a White House reception for mayors and said, “How are you, Mr. Mayor? I’m glad to meet you. How are things in your city?” Unfortunately, the man was Samual Pierce, Reagan’s own secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I don’t mean to criticize the former President because I’ve had too many similar incidents myself. This is simply one example of a familiar phenomenon.
However, there are certain extreme cases in which an individual literally can’t tell one person from another. The condition is called “prosopagnosia” or “face blindness.” The term was coined in 1947 by German neurologist Joachim Bodamer. Persons with this affliction simply can’t see the distinctions between faces that most of us take for granted (http://www.crystalinks.com/prosopagnosia.html). The condition is usually the result of brain damage but some people seem to be born with it. As many as 2% of the population may have this affliction.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who can remember essentially anyone they’ve ever met. These people possess what is known as “super recognition.” They remember people they met once, years ago. More potentially embarrassing, they remember people who don’t remember them. Sometimes, as a defense mechanism, they pretend they don’t recognize other people when they really do (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-05/hu-we051909.php).
But while we may have trouble recognizing or remembering each other, God does not. God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, / and before you were born I consecrated you; / I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5 ESV). God knows us and has always known us. Jesus said to his followers, “‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.’” (Matt. 10:29-30 ESV). God not only knows us but cares about us. Jesus told the Pharisees, “‘I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;’” (John 10:14-15a ESV). Because God knows us, we can know God. The apostle Philip said to Jesus, “‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’” (John 14:8b ESV). Jesus replied, “‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?’” (John 14:9b-10a ESV).
God sent Jesus so that we could know God. It’s hard to imagine an infinite, all-powerful God, at least for me. But it’s reasonably easy to imagine a man somewhat like me. We might not know exactly what he looked like but we know he was a human being like us. God sent the Holy Spirit so that we could know God. John wrote, “No one has ever seen God; . . . we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:12a, 13 ESV).
If we behave as if we know—and are known by—God, it will make a profound difference. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:2-3 ESV). If we know and love God, we will act in a way that shows love for God and others.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:7-16 ESV.)