The Question to All Our Answers
"Is there room for gray area in faith, or is everything black and white?"
We opened with this question on Tuesday, and the conversation surprised me a bit. Initially, I think most people found this to be a simple answer. Some tables answered quickly and then sat in silence for a bit until someone asked a deeper question, propelling the conversation forward again. It was here that thought-provoking conversation began to occur, pushing everyone to challenge what they thought the original answer should be.
Too often, we sit rigid in what we claim to believe. We're found with closed fists, desperately clinging to our answers as if any strong wind could come by and blow them away. We see this happening all around us, and this mindset makes conversation nearly impossible. Everyone is scrambling to form their rebuttals, rather than listening to the arguments. Instead of asking questions to understand, we're creating a polarizing environment of 'us v.s. them' that leaves everyone feeling tense, frustrated and disconnected.
It's funny, though, that we see this trend in our faith life. It's as if we forget that the Jesus we follow challenged people's answers in the hopes of pushing them into a deeper spiritual journey. Martin B. Copenhaver is the author of a book called Jesus is the Question. According to Copenhaver, Jesus asks 307 questions in the New Testament. He is asked 187 questions. He gives a straight response to 3 questions. Jesus, the one who was supposed to have all the answers, spent more time asking than telling.
Jesus had plenty of conversations with people who he disagreed with. One example of this can be found in Mark 3:1-6. It reads:
"Jesus returned to the synagogue. A man with a withered hand was there. Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Step up where people can see you.” Then he said to them, “Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they said nothing. Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he did, and his hand was made healthy. At that, the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus."
Here we see Jesus in the synagogue on Sabbath alongside a man unable to use his hand. According to the law, Sabbath was a day strictly for rest and worship of God. To heal this man would be considered a breach of the law. The Pharisees were there to see if Jesus would repair the man's hand, giving them reason to reject him.
Rather than outright telling them why their thoughts were wrong, Jesus poses a question: "Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” He pushes them to do some self-reflection. Do you really believe that your answer is more important than this man's miracle? Is it possible that you're answer isn't totally right?
Rather than budging on their stance, the Pharisees do what we often do - they stayed silent. Unwilling to admit that maybe Jesus was on to something, they said nothing and chose to reject him anyways. Their own stubbornness caused them to miss the miracles happening around them.
When we're unable to engage in challenging conversations with those around us, we miss valuable opportunities to grow. Questions allow us to reflect on our own answers in a healthy way, and they provide us the chance to humble ourselves. We can admit that at times we might not always get it right. We can also learn a lot about those around us by spending more time listening and asking, rather than answering.
This week, I challenge each of us to spend more time asking questions and less time answering them. When we hear a stance or answer that we might disagree with, lets spend some time asking more questions instead of attempting to correct them. Lets push ourselves to learn by listening. I think we would all be surprised at the difference it would make, not only in our conversations with others, but within ourselves.