Are we created with a built-in desire to search for and come to know God?
The Gospel of Mark reports that after King Herod had John the Baptist imprisoned, he liked to listen to him. He had imprisoned John at the urging of his wife, Herodias because she resented John pointing out that she was also the wife of Phillip, Herod’s brother.
Herodias wanted to kill John, but initially she was not able to do so, “because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.” (Mark 6:20)
How fascinating! Herod was attracted to what John had to say, so he apparently visited him from time to time in prison. He may have been puzzled by John’s words, but he was still drawn to listen. Though he may not have realized it, Herod was searching for God.
Once when a work colleague learned that I was involved with a ministry called Christians in Commerce, he laughed and loudly proclaimed that the name, Christians in Commerce, was an oxymoron. When we were with other colleagues he would kid me about the ministry and mock my Christianity, but when we were alone he would ask all kinds of questions about the ministry and passages from scripture that he did not understand or agree with. He would not admit it, but he was searching for God.
God creates us with a desire to seek him and the truth about life and existence. It may not be a desire that is obvious to us. Yet, we all seek meaning, purpose and what is real in life.
We are attracted to the truth. When Jesus explained the meaning of the scriptures about himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, the disciples exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
When Pilate was questioning Jesus about whether he was a king, Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)
Unfortunately, our sin and the distractions of the world can often keep us from listening to Jesus. We listen to other voices that obscure the truth and the message God has for us. Paul speaks to this problem in his letter to the Romans when he says, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:25)
Fortunately, God never stops working to draw us to him. In honor of our free will, he never forces our acceptance of him. But he made it part of our DNA to seek meaning and truth. As St. Augustan said,
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests with you.”