I like to ask questions, especially “why” questions. I don’t recall my family ever saying that I was one of those kids who drove everyone crazy with questions, but I do know that the older I get, the more curious I am becoming. What I’ve come to realize is that life is about the discovery path between the question and the answer and that new answers always lead to new questions. We can get stuck in two ways: either in needing absolute answers or in wanting only questions so we don’t have to discern the ongoing answers.
In my life I’ve known church communities that discourage questions and I’ve known church communities that invite questions without much effort in helping folks seek answers. Real life, the life God intends for all of us, lies in between these two extremes. Questions are good, necessary even, to enable us to discover who we believe in. Belief in God is a who question – who is God and who are we in relationship with God – and God is bigger than any question we might ask and any doubt we might experience.
Jesus never shied away from questions and, yes, he gave answers but most often he answered questions with questions so that the folks he was speaking with had to work out the answers. Jesus knew this was the best way for folks to own the truth of the Gospel message. Spoon-fed answers don’t enable us to grow and mature.
In the gospel stories we have many, many answers about how to live. But we have to have ears to hear and eyes to see who God is and who we are. As The Church, we need to be open and welcoming to all questions AND we need to equip people with the tools to discern answers. Labeling all questions as doubt isn’t faith, it’s brainwashing. Inviting questions without also offering the opportunity to grow and learn is a hollow invitation to nothing in particular. To truly be “seeker friendly” we have to help folks actually find something because that’s what seeking means. Jesus says, “seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7).
If we are only asking questions and avoiding answers, we are not actually seeking but looking for a way to remain comfortable where we are so we can feel good about ourselves without actually having to change or grow.
And the flip side is this: if, as The Church, we shame and guilt those who don’t like the answers they are discovering and they choose to walk away, we are not living the answers that the Gospel shares with us. Following Jesus is a choice. When the rich man couldn’t find it in himself to do what Jesus asked and walked away, Jesus let him (Mark 10:17-22). And, when others told Jesus that they wanted to follow him but first they needed to take care of some things, Jesus said to them, ‘make me first in your life and I’ll guide you with all that you need to tend to in this life’ See Luke 9:57-62).
Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” He commissioned all of his followers to “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20, The Message).
We should never stop asking questions AND we need to live into the truth of the Gospel. These two behaviors are not mutually exclusive but go hand in hand as we continuously grow into the maturity of Christ (See Ephesians 4). We may not find a direct answer to every question in Scripture, in fact, there are many we won’t find, so we also have our Tradition, the words and work of faithful Followers who have come before us, as well as each other, and our God-given ability to Reason things out with each other in faithful community. The most hopeful and important message we can offer is that through our questions and the discovery and discernment of the answers in community, we will find the life God has in store for us all.
We are on this amazing journey we call life together, living an ongoing Sunday School lesson in which we continuously ask ourselves “how would Jesus love” so that we are equipped better and better each day to live as Jesus’ Followers on earth as in heaven.
What questions do you have? I’d love to seek answers with you!