You know that guy. You see him all the time, perhaps at church, the grocery, Starbucks or in the halls at school or work, but you’ve never spoken. You may smile or say hello but there’s no real conversation, and yet because you see him all the time it seems like you know them. From your observations, you sort of form this persona in your mind and then “that guy” is the guy in your head. But, chances are, if you actually get to know them, you will find out that he isn’t at all what you thought he was.
In college, “that guy” for me was Thomas. We were at school together for 3 years. We took many of the same classes and had lunch at the same time and shared many mutual friends. We both lived on campus and walked everywhere. We both studied in the library. We were both friendly with our professors. But for the better part of those three years, we barely said more than “Hi” to one another. Then, during his last semester, we started talking and imaginary Thomas was replaced by real Thomas. I was wrong about most everything I assumed about him.
I think Christ is like that for a lot of people. He’s always around. People talk about him. Movies depict his life. Songs are composed about his character. Authors write books detailing their perceptions of and encounters with Him. And some think they know Him from this peripheral type of encounter. But, as my experience with Thomas proves, you really can’t know someone until you’ve been with them, talked with them, been invited into their life or invited them into yours.
With my friend Thomas, I was pleasantly surprised by his actual personality, but how many people have I dismissed or disliked on casual observation…and felt justified in doing so? It seems that many people do that with Christ. They gather information, mostly accidentally or haphazardly, and then form an opinion. For some it leads to false conversion, for others, ignorant rejection…both have grave and eternal consequences.
Yet, despite this, despite the flightiness and ignorance and rebellion, God roams to and fro across the earth, seeking hearts, pursuing the rebel and loving his enemies. He loves us because He loves us. His pursuit and affection are not based on some bent in us toward him or any redeeming quality, neither is it deterred by our aversion to him.
Isn’t that just wonderful?
Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, I was an ignorant rejecter of Christ. I thought I knew all there was to know about Him, and the scientific/historical evidence refuting His deity. I was puffed up with knowledge, yet still searching for something bigger than myself. But, as it turned out, I had rejected a perception - a rejection that was just as real and weighty, however.
As he was roaming to and fro across the earth one day in July of 1994, He stopped at room 310 in Babington Hall on the campus of Nicholls State University in the small town of Thibodaux, Louisiana. There, not only was my perception of Christ changed, but so was I…and I am forever grateful. But every day since, it has been a fight to keep what I believe about God in the reality of who He is, based on my time with Him and what He says in His word and not other’s opinions, circumstances or feelings. Our hearts are so prone to wanderings and change in affection, but He is steadfast and faithful. And that is the most wonderful thing, of all, don’t you think?