Lately, within the last week, I’ve heard a lot and learned a lot about being engaged with the Lord.
And this isn’t an engagement that is superficial, or only when I want answers, or to find a solution. This is companionship, and friendship, and vulnerability.
This train of thinking began less than a week ago when I returned to school following winter break for Student Leadership Training. We spent just a couple of short days diving into the Word to examine one guy, Peter, and his walk with Jesus. As you may know, Peter was a loud-mouthed, rough disciple. He spoke out of turn or ignorance countless times, yet other times really got it right (see Matt. 16:15-18). Peter was a fisherman when Jesus called him; a guy who was hardened by life, who knew fishing better than anyone, a guy who maybe had a bit of a sailor’s mouth. But Jesus called him. And Peter followed.
I wouldn’t say that Peter’s life was characterized by perfection in decision-making or gentleness in speech. Though he failed and didn’t understand a lot of things, though he talked a lot and even wanted to go back to fishing after Jesus was resurrected, there’s something important to know about him: he was engaged with Jesus. He was bold in his friendship with the Lord, asking questions and being vulnerable.
The next day, engagement with the Lord came up again.
We had departmental training, and for our time as RAs to come together to prepare for the semester, one of our deans shared a vulnerable part of her past. And as she shared the chronicle of her life in this particularly dark stage, she came to the conclusion that she was engaged with the Lord even in those moments and hours. She was confused and hurting and lost, feeling beyond repair and believing herself to be hopeless. But she was engaged with the Lord. She journaled to Him, talking with Him about her life and struggling to believe Him for who He is. But she loved Him and chose to be engaged with Him, not allowing the pain of life to separate her from knowing Jesus just a little bit better.
And yet again and again, in my own life.
Recently, I’ve been re-learning that to be engaged with Jesus is to know Him, and as we know Him, we fall in love with Him evermore. He is lovely and perfect and wants us to know Him and be engaged with Him. He wants deep friendships with us.
Were He uninterested in us except our eternal destiny, He wouldn’t have worded the Great Commission the way He did.
In Matthew 28, He tells His beloved disciples to go and make disciples, to teach them to obey His commands, and to baptize them. To make disciples. He is interested in deep friendships with us, far deeper than a ‘ticket into Heaven.’ He wants us to teach each other how to walk in friendship with Him, how to get to know Him, how to be engaged with Him.
Why? Because He is in love with us, and wants to be known by us. He wants to be engaged with us, to go deep with us, and to have friendships with us.
And I think that in many ways, that flies in the face of the way that we interact with Him. I think that maybe we are easily satisfied in the knowledge of our past salvation, so much so that to know Him is too much extra for us. That maybe our friendship with Jesus looks less like depth and struggle and vulnerability, and maybe more like something a little colder and more distant. I think that in our easy satisfaction, we stop yearning to know Him, though that is exactly what Paul would say is the richness of assurance (Col. 2:2).
I’m convinced from Scripture that to know Jesus, to grow in an engaged friendship with Him, is the very essence and fullness of the Christian life. Other things, like evangelization and good works, come as a result of our friendship with Him. In Philippians, Paul would say that his entire goal is to gain Christ, counting all things as garbage in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (3:8). Just to know Him.
I think that if we aren’t convinced of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus, then maybe we’ve got something wrong.
Because the Christian life isn’t about performance.
I’m fairly certain that if Jesus cared about performance (hear me out- I don’t mean to say that He disregards our behavior or attitude or works), he would’ve corrected Peter’s words when Peter denied Him and the Word says that Peter “began to swear (Mt. 26:74).” Peter, our sweet, godly disciple, was angry and frustrated and said some things maybe he shouldn’t have. Jesus is God, and was fully aware and able to correct that.
Yet something was more important to Jesus, and maybe that something was His abundant love for Peter and deep desire for friendship with him, even after the denial.
And maybe Jesus is working out that same friendship with us, if we’ll just be engaged with Him.