I am blessed to be around intelligent, bright-eyed teenagers on a regular basis.
Recently, upon learning that I write Christian commentary, a particularly upbeat eighth-grader sincerely and innocently offered “I don’t know what religion I am, but I believe in God.”
I responded warmly, “That’s a great start.”
Yes, a great start indeed. I am so very thankful there is a God we all can know; a God who has put it in our hearts and heads that He is indeed there, whether we know Him, want Him, love Him, praise Him, pursue Him, fear Him, trust Him, blame Him, or ignore Him. God is there and anyone can get to know Him.
Each human story for “getting to know God” is unique. That reflects the truly unique nature of the Christian faith: the personal, relational presence of the holy creator and almighty God in our lives and humanity. That Presence – the One who God sent amid humanity to restore, adopt, and save us into an eternal loving relationship with God – is the Lord Jesus Christ. And the only way we can know that is through our faith in God, Christ’s grace, and the comforting, illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.
That is the face of the Trinity, the God who Himself works as a loving community to bring us into loving community with Him. Sometimes it is gentle love, sometimes it is tough love, and sometimes it is truly inexplicable love. But we must begin to know God by remembering that love didn’t start with reason and people; love started with the creator God: “His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1 and hundreds of other verses).
“Forever” – that’s past, present, and future; beginning, middle and end.
Believing in God – which is common to many faith traditions – is different from knowing God. The terms on which we “know God” – sacrificial love (Christianity), the Law (Judaism), God’s power (Islam), elimination of self (Buddhism), or whatever – defines our religion. What God offered to humanity through Jesus Christ is not only the unique physical human presence in time, space, and history of the one and true, eternal Creator God, but also the renewed gift of an eternal human relationship with God.
Rationally, linguistically, and humanly, “love” implies relationship. Mercifully and uniquely, God’s love implies His active relationship with humanity and all His creation. God reaches deep into our hearts, minds and souls to make us aware He is there.
In His love, God lets us decide freely, seriously, and independently “what religion we are.”