Only skin deep

Any belief in Jesus Christ—however small—is far bet­ter than any amount of belief about him.
George Mac­Don­ald

I had a con­ver­sa­tion with a broth­er the oth­er night, in which he told me he was hav­ing a hard time with some things he was see­ing about anoth­er broth­er. The issues were about things such as how the pos­ses­sions he had seemed exces­sive, he seemed stand­off­ish, he did­n’t seem will­ing to open his home up to this oth­er broth­er, etc.

We talked a bit about the issues, but what was true is that the prob­lems all had to do with a rela­tion­al issue; this guy did­n’t tru­ly know the oth­er. He knew things about this broth­er, but he did­n’t have a rela­tion­ship with him that was more than just the basics.

It seems to be a pret­ty com­mon issue in peo­ple, and it’s sure one that God address­es a lot around here, because it’s impos­si­ble to live that way in a cor­po­rate way of life.

It’s easy to admire some­one, learn all kinds of things about them, and end up feel­ing like we know them well.

Yeah, me and Joe, we go waaay back.”

But then some­thing will come up that will total­ly dumb­found us.

What were they think­ing?” We wonder.

We should know. If we’re call­ing our­selves a part of the Body of Christ, we should have rela­tion­ships with the peo­ple around us that are so deep that they are a part of us. It’s not enough to have facts, such as their likes and dis­likes, favorite col­ors, movies, foods, etc. All of those kinds of things are just skin deep.

There­fore, from now on we rec­og­nize no one accord­ing to the flesh; even though we have known Christ accord­ing to the flesh, yet now we know him in this way no longer. There­fore, if any­one is in Christ, he is a new crea­ture; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.

2 Cor. 5:16–17

Even Jesus, after ris­ing from the dead, would­n’t allow his dis­ci­ples to know him by the flesh. He act­ed pret­ty strange­ly when he revealed him­self to the disciples.

Like how only the sec­ond thing he says to Mary Mag­da­lene in the gar­den is: “Stop cling­ing to me.” (John 20:17)

Or how, in chap­ter 21, when the dis­ci­ples are out fish­ing and some guy appears on shore telling them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat, and they don’t rec­og­nize him. John’s the first to fig­ure it out, and tells Peter, “It’s the Lord!”

That was­n’t due to the fact that they could­n’t see him clear­ly. Even when they get to the shore and they’re sit­ting around the fire with him it says, “None of the dis­ci­ples ven­tured to ques­tion him, “Who are you?” know­ing that it was the Lord.” (21:12)

Or how, in Luke 24, he appears to some of the dis­ci­ples on the road to Emmaus, and again, they don’t rec­og­nize him–not until he breaks the bread, where­upon he imme­di­ate­ly vanishes!

Imag­ine that. Jesus wants them to know that it’s him, but as soon as they fig­ure it out, he leaves! Or he would­n’t let them cling to him, and appeared to them look­ing like some­one else. Why?

Jesus was teach­ing his dis­ci­ples that they could no longer know him after the flesh; they need­ed to know him after the spir­it. Their rela­tion­ship with him had always been great; they were with him con­stant­ly, enjoy­ing his pres­ence. It was prob­a­bly real­ly sat­is­fy­ing to them.

But it was­n’t sat­is­fy­ing to him.

Their rela­tion­ship had been a phys­i­cal rela­tion­ship. But from his res­ur­rec­tion on, it could no longer be a phys­i­cal rela­tion­ship, it had to be a spir­i­tu­al relationship.

Too often, we learn so much about Jesus, but don’t real­ly know him. Sal­va­tion is a man, not a plan.

And, as part of his Body, that is how we are to know one anoth­er; not by the flesh, not by the out­ward things, but by the con­nec­tion of the Spir­it of God inside our hearts.

That strug­gling broth­er can go and talk to the per­son he was hav­ing a hard time with, and could even get all of his ques­tions answered. But unless he invests him­self in join­ing his heart with that broth­er, learn­ing who he is in Christ, there will soon be anoth­er set of prob­lems for him to strug­gle with.

But if he allows his heart to be joined to that broth­er in heart, and tru­ly learn to know him in Christ, most issues real­ly aren’t issues anymore.

He’ll find, as I have, that the broth­er who was caus­ing all this strug­gle is one of the most car­ing indi­vid­u­als he’ll ever meet. He works his guts out tak­ing care of peo­ple every sin­gle day, and has giv­en up every­thing to fur­ther the King­dom of God, and would give every­thing he’s got now up again at the drop of a hat. Yes, he’s got some things which are bet­ter than me. But he does­n’t care about them. His fore­most thought, 24/7, is tak­ing care of the Body.

But if we live in the flesh, and have our rela­tion­ships only sur­face deep, we can miss see­ing those kinds of things in peo­ple. These beau­ti­ful, incred­i­ble, god­ly beings around us get reduced to just plain peo­ple, instead of the con­tain­ers of Christ that they are.


  1. David, great post! Had­n’t con­sid­ered the full impli­ca­tions of why Jesus approached the dis­ci­ples in such a way after the Resurrection.

    And, as always, thank you so much for your hos­pi­tal­i­ty this week­end. If you would, can you email me (you should have the address from this com­ment) your email address and the email address­es of ariel, ben, ben, your broth­ers, etc? Thanks much.

  2. Thanks for the com­ment, Eric!

    You’re always wel­come here. It was a delight to have y’all at the vil­lage again.

    We’ll make it down there to Atlanta again soon!

  3. David,
    Good post! We had ladies group tonight and we were talk­ing about how we should be treat­ing one anoth­er. Deal­ing with friend­ships, mar­riages, house­holds and con­flicts. I real­ly appre­ci­at­ed what you said and the encour­age­ment to KNOW after the Spirit.
    So good being with all of you and look for­ward to October!

  4. Wow. That’s real­ly well writ­ten. I don’t mean the gram­mar. I mean it’s real­ly clear and easy to get hold of.

    This is the kind of thing that’s worth say­ing over and over again because it’s so con­trary to our over­con­fi­dent minds. Well, I know I need it over and over again.

  5. @Charlotte — thanks! Glad this helped.

    We’ve got to remem­ber that, yes, we need to deal with the issues that come up, but most, if not all, of the time these issues are real­ly just symp­toms of a deep­er prob­lem, which is that there are places in our hearts and lives that are not Christ yet. God uses these things as cat­a­lysts to allow light to pen­e­trate our dark­ness and shad­ows. Our broth­ers and sis­ters are mir­rors for us, allow­ing us to see the truth about our­selves, which we real­ly can’t see accu­rate­ly by ourselves.

    I love Eph­esians’ pic­ture of this:

    …but speak­ing the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fit­ted and held togeth­er by what every joint sup­plies, accord­ing to the prop­er work­ing of each indi­vid­ual part, caus­es the growth of the body for the build­ing up of itself in love.“Eph­esians 4:15–16, NASB

    We are sup­posed to grow up to be just like Christ. How? By speak­ing the truth in love to one anoth­er. The Body, the Church, is fit and held togeth­er by what the joins sup­ply… the joints aren’t real­ly parts of the body, per se, but the connnec­tions between the body’s mem­bers. And if each mem­ber of that Body, mean­ing each saint, isn’t work­ing prop­er­ly (doing their part of speak­ing the truth in love), that ben­e­fit will not come, because the con­nec­tions with those mem­bers isn’t life-giving.

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