Everyone wants to be known. In those places of business we frequent, there is a particular pleasure when the staff or owners know us by name (accompanied by a smile, preferably)!
I have personally experienced this regularly; well, maybe not regularly. When your last name is “Grieme,” the mispronunciations are legion. The fact they remember my name, well this is a more universally appreciated emotion; the fact they can pronounce my name correctly, well, this elevates the experience to a symphony!
I believe this desire “to be known” is one of the reasons for the exponential explosion of social media. Every post, every like, every share and every platform undergirds our desires to be known!
This ecosystem of need manifests itself within an irony of action. The very ones who are seeking their value and worth through these digital environs, comport themselves in a manner which undermines their ability to receive this want in actual reality. We all observe an extremely large (and ever increasing) portion of our society which live their lives, while ambulatory, without the physical connection with another human due to their obsession with a faux, digital world.
Many a young person—and even those not-so-young—come to a devastating conclusion that they cannot maintain long-term employment while being attached to a digital IV dispensing their fix. Few employers will tolerate snippets of attention to projects they assign to said employee with such an all-consuming addiction controlling them.
Simple response: then they should stop. The problem is one of conditioning. These people have spent their whole lives addicted to their devices; they have no experience existing without such a digital presence in their lives. This is what gives them value and worth!
Back to my beginning, everyone desires to be known, and more, to have value! Yet for the believer in Jesus Christ, our value is found in the fact that we are known by God! Jesus Himself refers to us as “His sheep” who “hear His voice” (John 10:27 ESV). Yet this is important: We are not the sheep of God because we hear (a choice on our part) but we hear because we belong to God and are His sheep!
With every enunciation of the good news of the Gospel, there exists the echo of judgment. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells of how He will respond to those who claim to be His, to belong to Him, but in reality, are not His. In Matthew 7:23 after listening to the attestations of those who claim to be His, He says, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”
In these words of Jesus there exists the epitome of all human fears: to not be known. This exceeds the mere knowing of our name; this is an intimate knowledge which leaves nothing undiscovered.
Herein is our greatest fear. The fear of being unknown.
I have lost track of how often I have stated to people: Rule #1, God is sovereign; Rule #2, don’t forget Rule #1!
I believe the God I serve often allows humanity the opportunity to catch a brief sliver of insight into His mind and perhaps—to an incredibly infinitesimally small degree—also gain some understanding regarding His love and relationship with people.
Because I am a pastor, I have many friends who are in the funeral home business. While it is a business, what they offer is service through a compassionate and loving relationship which will end up impacting every member of your family in one way or another.
Almost without exception, a good funeral home is built around a family who view the services they offer as both a calling and a responsibility they have to the community in which they live. For the vast majority of the population, the whole idea of caring for the dead and preparing bodies for burial is just, well, creepy.
Yet this is where I as a pastor, sees how God wonderfully gifts different people with distinct gifts and abilities which meet the needs of everyone. Those who are in law enforcement, those who serve fire departments, doctors, lawyers, plumbers—these individuals are working in an area in which they have been given a unique set of skills and abilities, which enable them to meet the needs of society.
The men and women who serve in these funeral homes live, work and many times they may even know the people who have died. They provide services for people they have just met, for friends, for neighbors and sometimes even for their own families. Again, I believe it is a calling from God which enables them to serve their communities so faithfully. Yet they also earn their living doing what they do.
The fact that their “services” are also a business often causes stress and difficulties to arise. Those in this business that I have been granted the gift of a relationship find it extremely unpleasant in having to become “insistent” regarding their fee and their ability to be paid.
Because of the nature of the relationship they have with their clientele, and the fact their services are always needed in emotionally sensitive circumstances, there is always extra stress and effort when they must be much more straight-forward regarding the payment for their services.
I have watched the verbal hurdles they face as they attempt to find a way to express the need and necessity for payment while at the same time being sensitive to the raw emotional state these families are experiencing.
While they have a moral responsibility to make sure they receive payment for the services they have rendered (this is true of all businesses—the employees expect those who own their business operate ethically, with integrity and do not do anything which would endanger their livelihood), they also desire to be sensitive to the needs of their clients. Yet as many of us know and understand, there are some people with whom we must become very terse regarding these things.
As I have observed these service providers endure these difficulties, when they finally secure payment, there is never a sense of “having won.” They are never jubilant over avoiding the financial difficulty of providing a service in which they will have to take a financial loss.
Quite the contrary; they are almost bewildered by the necessity of the confrontation. Given the choice, they would have preferred to avoid all confrontation regarding the matter. This kind of encounter seems to take the joy out of their calling to serve. It makes them uncomfortable because they actually know this is part-and-parcel to business, but it is an unpleasant necessity which they make every attempt to avoid.
The Lord God is the great Undertaker. While there are some who desire to teach that everyone will go to Heaven—or no one will—the Bible is very clear: “It is appointed for people to die once—and after this judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). For those of us who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the Bible also says, “The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the LORD’S sight” (Psalm 116:15).
Yet for those who are separate from the Lord, He says, “’For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death.’ This is a declaration of the Lord GOD. ‘So repent and live’” (Ezekiel 18:32). God does not wish anyone to die apart from Him, this is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God must be true to Himself. He is both holy and just. If God looked at humanity, and chose instead to pat people on their proverbial heads and say in a grandfatherly way, “Oh that’s okay, if you don’t want to pay the price for rebellion, I’ll let it pass!”
One of the main reasons my friends who run funeral homes cannot allow people to simply “not pay” is because they have responsibilities to others; their families, their employees and even to their communities. If they do not follow good business practices, who would then be able to serve their communities in these instances?
If God did not maintain His holiness, His just nature, what would this then mean regarding the sacrifice of His Son? The death of God for mankind demands that the value of the gift—in this case, the gift of salvation—be upheld and be protected.
If God chose not to punish man’s rebellion, the gift of Christ’s death on the Cross would be rendered worthless. No longer would it be the greatest act of love mankind has ever seen. It would be nothing more than another senseless death at the hands of a cruel people.
If God had did not occasionally give humanity some insight into His nature, how would we then understand the necessity of collecting debts? How would we be able to understand grace and mercy?
If no debt were ever collected, would anything have any worth?