A man in our congregation gave this testimony: He and his wife had visited various churches with their questions. But no one seemed to listen until they began attending a small group where their questions were welcomed.
That experience is not unique. I’ve had questions all my life. And questions lead to deeper questions-often about things viewed as basic, incontrovertible.My daughter, Holly, has always raised questions (maybe it’s in the genes). It hurt her in school. Many, if not most teachers are impatient with questions, possibly threatened by them. I studied under two of the foremost Christian thinkers of the twentieth century. Neither one dealt well with questions-especially ones that might challenge their perspectives. However, there is always the exception. Emily Gray, who is now with the Lord, was one of the most gifted teachers I have known. She taught Holly. And she loved the questions. Unanswered questions don’t go away, especially the ones never raised, never addressed.
A Sunday school teacher once asked class members to name their favorite holiday. A great get acquainted activity. One lady, new to the group, said, “Halloween.” There was a collective gasp. She never returned.Let’s speculate a little. Perhaps a few others in the group identified with the woman’s sentiments. Would they raise a question? Probably not. Would their thinking change? It’s doubtful. Those who disagreed with the group would quietly continue to hold their own ideas. If they discovered enough disagreements they might leave the group and drift away from the church without anyone knowing why.
A number of years ago I taught a senior high class. One Sunday I was talking about how we know we’re Christians and for some reason I locked in on a young man who was a student at an outstanding Christian school and whose parents were faithful in the church. I wanted him to tell me how he knew he was a Christian but the responses were vague at best so I kept pressing him. Finally he said, “I’m not sure I’m a Christian and I’m not sure I want to be.” Could such a question be raised in your setting without that collective gasp? Without a teacher being unnerved?
There are deep-seated differences in this society about politics, education and morality. Many differences exist even in the Christian community. We tend to respond to those differences in one of two ways. Either we identify with groups where virtually everyone thinks like we do, or we bury our questions. Neither is particularly helpful. Our thinking needs to be challenged. Our values, even those we cherish the most, need to be evaluated. Our faith must be examined lest we find ourselves losing that which we claim is most dear.So when the questions come – even the ones with hostile overtones – take them seriously. It could be God’s way of providing answers for all those involved.