When your children ask you … Exo 12:26
Throughout the bible, people ask questions. Remember Abraham? He asked God about killing the righteous along the wicked. Moses asks why the wicked flurish. And think of the Psalms of David.
Even the disciples asked questions. Some great ones that we still profit from, as when they asked Jesus to explain the parable of the sower. Some not so great ones, as when they asked if they could be seated next to Jesus in the Kingdom.
Go through the bible and look for questions. You will find so many.
God asks question as well. Remember Job’s lamentation and God’s answers? Those answers consisted of a whole bunch of — questions.
Most cultures teach by — teaching. Christianity teaches through preaching, mainly. We expect faith and obedience. What we often do not expect is — questions.
But if we are real, we have a lot of them.
Some we feel embarrassed to ask as we fear being seen as dumb and ignorant. Some we do not ask as we fear to embarrass the person we ask as he or she might not know the answer. Maybe we heard the answer to often — I don’t know, that is — to bother asking again. Or people might have given you flippant answer just like: “Just believe. We do not have to know everything.” or “I don’t care. This is not relevant to our salvation, so why bother.”
And then there is this special category of questions that would instill doubt and confusion in some person. It does not have to be the one you ask, but someone who hears.
Another Way of Life
Most religions define growth as a means of obedience. Children grow obeying. Ever heard the sentence: just do what I told you?
Even Christianity has put a great emphasis on children obeying their parents, based on this verse:
Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well- pleasing to the Lord. Col 3:20/Eph 6:1
What we copied from other religions and systems is the notion that being obedient is to follow blindly.
Judaism does not see obedience at the center of growth, but education. There is no word that means “to obey” in Hebrew, even though Strong’s would tell us. When Ivrit (modern day Hebrew) came into being, the word had to be borrowed from Arabic. The words translated carry the meanings of “to hear, to listen, to understand, to internalize, to respond”.
Four times around the developping story of Pessach and the exodus from Egypt the bible talkes of educating the children about the history and its significance. Three times (in Ex 12:26-27, Ex 13:14, and in the recounting of it all in Deut 6:20-21) the child asks first. Only once (in Ex 13:8), the initiative is with the parent.
From that, the rabbies have come up with the four types of children in educational situations: the wise, the rebellious, the simple, and the one that does not know how to ask.
Today, we try to fix what centuries of obedience and ex-cathedra teaching instilled into us. Group participation is valued. But we still emphasis on answers and knowledge retrieval instead of the ability to ask questions.
It struck me when I read the term in English for what we call Frontalunterricht (teaching from the front) in German. Ex-cathedra. From the seat of the bishop. Not to doubt nor to question.
God gave us a great gift, the mind. We are made after his image. Of course, his mind is capable of so much more. We have been fallen creatures, limited to the natural world. But we are a new creation, set free from all limitations. At this point I used to say, if we only believed it. I have to correct myself and say: if we only understood.
For this word to become flesh in us, it has to saturate all of our being. Including our mind. We cannot be what we cannot understand, since if we do not understand, a part of us will always be left out of the truth. Neither can we be if we don’t fell it or believe it. Same argument. Do I talk about natural understanding? No, we have to renew our mind to fathom supernatural things.
Where is the Vessel?
We lack vessels to ask our questions.Nicodemus met Christ in the night. He favored one-on-ones, and he did not want to confuse the people by asking deep questions. maybe he did not want them to question the ability of their leadership to lead them as he had a pastoral heart and did not want the flock to lose trust in their pastors.
That is why many questions go unasked in services and church meetings.
We all are children of God, and therefore grow asking questions.
Many mature Christians do not grow by repetitively listening to the same messages over and over again. The know that they know. Some things they heard, some things they internalized, some things they responded to. Some things they heard so often that they start to either not listen any longer or even react negatively.
Many mature Christians are pointed to their personal faith life and time with the Lord for further growth and development. But Christianity in its core is about relationship. Left to our own, we tend to wander off and develop weird theories. That is why God gave us relationships, the fivefold ministers, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. And children to ask questions, by the way. Just to keep us alert.
How about building a vessel for questions to be asked? Even if nobody has an answer? How about groups of mature people with great trust to jointly go on a journey of finding out? A place where answers can be found for questions that have been controversial for centuries? Where doubts can not only be expressed, but explained, and addressed together? Where you know that nobody is going to fall from faith or question your faith if you question tradition and truths held dear? Where thinking, even thinking out of the box is not from the devil? Where we can revive one powerful way to grow: to ask questions.
By that I do not mean the professorial ivory tower of discussing for discussion’s sake, building theories to prove wrong your opponent, and showing off your mental capabilities. I mean war college like groups of people solving problems together to grow and to grow others by being a better leader, a better version of one self, a more mature example and representative of God.
I encourage you to ask, question, probe, investigate, analyze, explore. In the right environment that just might have to be built.