Maybe it’s always been like this. Maybe it’s a conspiracy that keeps the rich and powerful religious leaders in their high places. Maybe we are just following what we’re told, the mantras passed on to us from Christians before us. But whatever it is, there is a serious problem.
No one asks questions. Worse than that, those that do are deemed heretics or are at best undermining the established order. But what if the established order needs to be undermined? What if asking questions makes you a better Christian? A truer Christian? One that knows God more intimately, not a rebellious stepchild. I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately.
Can I be really honest? I hate when people use “His ways are not our ways”, or “no mind has conceived” or “God works in mysterious ways” to explain away some of the toughest and most important questions of the Christian faith. (These people tend to be the ones that don’t mention verses like “it is the glory of God to hide a matter and the glory of kings to search it out” and they forget to mention that the “no mind has conceived” verse ends with “who has known the mind of the Lord? But we have the mind of Christ.”) The other night, I got together with a group of friends, and we got honest. We asked a lot of questions. Here are a few of them:
If God is really there, why doesn’t it feel like it?
How do you know when you are doing something wrong so God is punishing you, or when you are doing it right and he’s testing you?
Why did God heal one person’s cancer, and not heal my friend? Why did my friend have to die?
Why are Christians so mean? Why don’t they look like Jesus?
Why would a loving God send people to hell? Is that even fair?
What is hell anyway?
I’ve prayed for Jesus to come into my life so many times, but I’ve never felt a change. I know Jesus does it for other people, but why won’t he love me?
How do I get close to God I can’t see or hear?
Why do good people suffer?
Why is there suffering, death, and pain at all?
Questions. Good ones. Important ones. I hope that you, like me, are sick of ignoring them. I hope the “Christian” answers about the “mystery” of God don’t cut it for you, because they are not supposed to.
Imagine for a moment that your dad is the king. He is the most loving, kind, tender and gentle individual you have ever met. He defends the weak and takes care of the poor, and he is the wisest man you know. You are 12, and you’re learning about what it means to be king by watching your dad as well as taking classes about how he rules. Then, in one of those classes, you find out that your loving and compassionate dad has been ruthlessly torturing and killing half of the people in his kingdom. 50% of his citizens killed, and he’s still doing it. I imagine this knowledge would leave you with quite a few questions, and maybe even some anger and accusation. Some of you might say that a Father like that, regardless of his reasons, should not be trusted or loved. You would reject him, and run away perhaps, in hopes of loving people better than your dad does. However, most of you would probably confront your father.
Imagine walking up to him. Knowing his power, and that he has been doing this to people since forever, you would probably be a bit afraid. You would be so confused, wondering how he could love you so much yet do something so horrid. You would probably be devastated, but I bet you would still love him. Some of you would be in denial as you approached him, sure that it wasn’t true and looking for any way to prove that your dad isn’t like that. Maybe some of you would be mostly sad. “How could you do this!? They told me how you murder your people! Why would you ever do such a thing! I thought you were loving, but you’re a monster!” As you approach him, eyes red from tears of hopelessness, confusion, anger, you look into his eyes. You are immediately shocked at what you see… his disposition hasn’t changed.
He’s always been loving and kind. That hasn’t changed. He’s always welcomed you with open arms. That hasn’t changed. His eyes always fill with tears at your pain, he always cries with you. That hasn’t changed. There is your dad, the king, on his knees crying at the sight of your pain. He’s not mad or shocked by your questions. He tries to hug you, but you push away. You see your rejection wounds him, but he doesn’t hold it against you. Then your father speaks:
“It’s ok. I know it’s hard. I know how confused you are and I understand why. You can’t fully understand yet, but I’m here to help you. Their suffering breaks my heart, just like yours. Let me show why…”
He speaks to you in soothing tones. Sometimes he says things like “when you’re older” or “one day, this part will make sense”, but he’s not condescending in the slightest. He’s honest, genuine. He thanks you for your questions, and he listens and addresses them all. By the end of the conversation, you feel comforted, and you understand what is happening. You realize your dad is still who you always knew him to be, and this thing you were so afraid of now makes sense–even though it doesn’t all make sense.
This is our relationship with God.
See, we don’t have a judgmental, angry God. He created us with questions, and those closest to him always ask him questions. In the Jewish tradition, rabbis were not interested so much in answering questions as in asking them. It was commonplace for a rabbi to answer a question with another question because it showed that he not only understood the question but that he was taking it to yet another level. Understanding was found by asking questions back and forth, not just having all the answers, like some theological spelling bee. Perhaps that’s why when God answers Job, he answers him with questions…
The point isn’t to simply understand in a western “a+b=c” sort of way. The point is experience that leads to understanding. Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32), but then he goes on to say “I am the truth”! (John 14:6) Truth is a Man. A man is not information, he’s a person. You can’t just “figure out” or “understand” a person. You have to know them. You have to be close to them. You have to have a relationship.
I challenge you, take another look at the scripture. Is it really Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth? Is it really formulas? Is it really a God telling a bunch of subjects how they are supposed to behave? Or is it more?
Do you see the people in this Book? Do you see Adam, questioning God about why he has all these longings for companionship that all of creation can’t meet? Do you see Abraham asking God how he and Sarah could possibly bear a son?Do you see Joseph in a cell, questioning God as to why all these terrible things have happened to him? Do you see Moses questioning how he could possibly lead God’s people to freedom? Do you see David, questioning “My God, why have you forsaken me?!” (Psalm 22) What about Habakkuk, asking God how he could possibly be so harsh as to send the Assyrians to mutilate His people? What about Jeremiah screaming up at God “you deceived me! you took advantage of me by using your power against me! Why did I ever come out of the womb at all?” (Jer 20:7-18). Maybe your eyes are drawn to Job’s questions… I know I can relate at times. What about the rich man, asking how to get to heaven? What about the disciples, constantly asking Jesus what he was talking about, usually completely lost to what He was really getting at.
What about Jesus Himself, asking God if there is any other way. Begging “please God! let this cup pass from me!”
God Himself, questioning God.
Your King is good, and He cares. God wants you to ask questions. He even allows us to accuse Him. Job at one point says “God, you’re up there laughing, mocking the suffering of the innocent” (Job 9:23) Quite a serious accusation. God doesn’t get mad at Him. Rather, he answers Job’s prayer to hear the truth from His mouth directly and helps Job sort through his pain and questions. God wasn’t offended. God wasn’t intimidated. God only hates it when you ask questions and don’t seek Him for understanding.
Jesus said we are no longer slaves but friends of God. In a friendship, no question is off limits.
My friends, because you can have relationship with the God-Man who IS Truth,