November 2019 Writing Competition: Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?

Hi friends, @Interested_in_Evangelism,

We are hosting another writing competition in RZIM Connect!

The prompt:

Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?

Guidelines:

Incorporate Scripture, personal experience, and any other relevant sources (books, poetry, art, etc.) to answer the question, “Why is it so important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner?”

Please verify that each submission is less than 600 words (about one page in most text editors).

The winning entry will be the one that provides the most meaningful, authentic, and insightful perspective on our contest theme.

Prizes:

First place winner: 100% discount to an RZIM Academy course

Fan favorite: 40% discount to an RZIM Academy course

Contest promoter: 40% discount to an RZIM Academy course

2nd and 3rd place: 20% discount to an RZIM Academy course

How to win the contest promoter award:

To share this post with your friends, just click on the link :link: at the bottom of this post. If your sharing of the post leads to the most awareness of the writing competition, then you will win the ‘contest promoter’ award.

How to win the fan favorite award:

If your entry receives the most ‘likes’, then you will win the ‘fan favorite’ award.

How to Participate:

Just reply to this post with your entry when you’re ready. Entries are due by midnight, Eastern time, on November 30th and we’ll announce the winners on December 3rd!

What else?

  • Vote for your favorite entries!
  • Invite your family, friends, and church to participate!
  • Encourage other participants!

About The RZIM Academy

To learn more about the RZIM Academy and to register for a course, visit rzimacademy.org.

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It is important , because he is fearfully and wonderfully made like me in God’s eyes. maybe i can’t give a satisfying answer in his/her view point or there might be some disagreements. but the questioner is important. i have no rights to hate him/her, because God did not hate me when i asked many questions in my early stage and still I’m asking question to God. we are all asking God many questions everyday. He did not hate us. in apostle Paul’s Letter to the church in colossae he mentioned that "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person( Colossians 4:6) here paul has taught us how to respond to every person
i was born in a Hindu family.i came to know christ when I was in Indonesia through a Philippines woman, her name is Jocelyn. i still remember vividly i asked her many questions constantly, every day i asked her questions. she hadn’t frustrated at me, instead, she had suggested me books or article related to my questions.by God’s grace and His miraculous work i have reached India safely. now I’m trying to talk to my friends and family about JESUS, often, they are asking many questions, sometimes teasing. I’m trying to give my best answers to them who ask questions , I’m giving smile and prayer to those who teasing me. because i always keep in mind a fisherman, apostle Peter’s words 1 Peter 3:15 "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; i have to see all people through cross of Christ. my lord JESUS Christ died on the cross for everyone in this world. which means everyone is important.

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1 Peter 3:15 encapsulates it coherently. It writes, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready to always give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (‘gentleness and respect’).”

Why is it important? Simply, from this passage, we could grapple on 3 things: Careful Surrender, Careful Conversation, and Careful Consideration.

The first is very crucial because it is the foundation of the Christian life. Revering Christ as Lord in my heart is very crucial. Without the transformed heart and mind, there will be no valuable conversation.

Moving to Careful Conversation: Are we willing to converse with people about life and Truth? God created our mouths, minds, hands, and feet for a purpose.
Back in my early years as a Christian which was 2013-2014, I was a shy-type guy. I was not into deep conversations or fruitful talks because I was used to fooling around a lot in pep talks and stuff. I was not also good in conversing with people even in choosing the right words to say. I remember my father would really train me to speak properly (that really disciplined me a lot! Besides I was just starting to love studying). And as time went by, I began to grow in love in reading and exploring God and that moulded me to love conversing with people. It was challenging but I realised that when you talk to people, always consider the words you say to them, the tone of your voice, the body language and the timing of the conversation. Consider also being ‘human’ in conversing by engaging through sharing interests, hobbies, stories, favourites, and stuff. Above all, I realised that as long you have Jesus, relationship is always a primary importance in conversation.

I just finished reading the book “Life of Jesus: Who He is and Why He Matters” by Dr. John Dickson. He is one of my favourite historians. His writing was well-balanced. In the end of his book he writes about having a conversation with a statistician who is really the type of guy who makes sure of every information he absorbs. John asked him if he would imagine entering into a relationship with the approach of making sure to answer all the questions first before getting into the relationship. The statistician said that it would be very tiring. Indeed! Relationship does not work that way. It has to be sharing a little about yourself and a little about the person you are talking to in order to develop a friendship. And through that friendship, you can have an opened door to a healthy conversation on Truth and life.

That leads me to the final one - Careful Consideration. This I had a hard time because I found out that I was sticking always to knowledge. I did not bridge my mind to my heart. As a result, my approach to people was not the approach I wanted it to work out. Always debates! “Gentleness and respect” have to approach people with love. As Ravi Zacharias puts it, “If Truth is not undergirded with love, it makes the possessor of that Truth obnoxious and the Truth repulsive.” That is careful consideration.

To summarize, it is okay to agree to disagree, but it does not mean we will always be disagreable. Careful Surrender, Careful Conversation, and Careful Consideration encapsulates 1 Peter 3:15. And that will make the evangelist and apologist truly Christ centered for the questioner to be comforted and welcomed in a civil and cordial manner.

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Why? To see the question thru their eyes. We all are different. Jesus, when asked a question knew who he was talking to and why they were asking. We need to understand where they are coming from. Take time to hear their story. Can you think of a better way to show someone you care about their question then to listen to why they are asking. They may just need a friend to talk to to figure it out. God is Good to All. Fred Proch

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QUESTIONING THE QUESTIONER

“Why do you call me good?”; “Whose inscription is on this coin?”; “By what authority did John the Baptist baptize?” * These questions have one thing in common…they were questions that Jesus asked His questioners.
Yet, each of these questions have something about them that is not in common. The questioners had different motives. One was a young wealthy man sincerely believing his good works counted for something with God, but whose heart was bound by riches. The second question asked about paying taxes to Caesar in hopes of catching Jesus being a disloyal subject, or a traitor to His people. The third question was an attempt to disprove His righteousness and instead, prove His affiliation with Satan.
Eight months ago, if you had instructed me to “question the questioner”, I would have looked at you with a blank stare. How and why I should do that was foreign to my understanding of evangelizing. However, after listening to the first lesson of the Core Module in the RZIM Academy, it became totally clear. Now, I realized that each questioner has a motive or a real issue for asking his or her question. It may come from a sincere desire to better understand a Biblical passage or some aspect of the Christian walk. It may come from one who has been mislead in his/her thinking about Christianity because of false teaching or having been in a false religion. Or it may arise from a background of pain and suffering in some form. Or, it may come from a heart of animosity that wants to find fault with the Christian faith. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0218GkAGbnU. The reasons are broad and varied.
Jesus taught by asking questions. He is our role model. However, Jesus already knew their hearts and motives. So, why did He question them? I believe, it was to allow the questioners to see and face their own motives. He did this deliberately to expose their minds in order to reach their hearts.
As humans, more specifically, Christians, we can’t always know the motives or conditions behind questions as Jesus did. That is why it’s vital that we ask penetrating questions such as, “What do you mean by that?” or “Why do you think that is true?”, in order to give more valid responses. As J. Warner Wallace points out in his book, “Forensic Faith”, one of the tasks in presenting a case in a court of law is to ask questions of witnesses. The questions are designed to bring clarity to the testimony, or often to correct an error. In a court of law, attorneys can become brutal, but as Christians, we must proceed with gentleness and in a non-threatening manner, as Jesus did, if we are to achieve our goal of reaching the individual’s heart.
Questioning the questioner has another advantage: It can expose our own motives and keep us accountable. If our aim is to prove our own wisdom and skill in responding, but have no compassion, so that questioners leave disappointed, we fail miserably. We must realize that the responses we give are not to advance our status as apologists, but to glorify Christ.
Jesus did not always achieve a successful outcome because often the questioners were blind, evil, or lacked understanding. We will fail in that way also. Jesus questioned the questioner to expose motives that would transition to the heart. That should be our goal as well. Then it is up to the Holy Spirit to convict or convince.

*Mk. 10:18; Lk. 20:24; Matt.21:25

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Let me give this a shot! :slight_smile:

My 10-year-old boy does not usually answer back when you ask him a question. Most of the time I have to ask him twice or thrice before he actually answers back. In one instance, I was caught off-guard. He shouted at me after asking him a question a third time!

We were in the car on the way to school. It was boy-scout day, so he was wearing the scout uniform, the brown buttoned shirt with patches – boy scout logo and the Philippine flag. I thought the air-conditioning can be cold inside their classroom because he didn’t bring his school jacket, so I asked him, “Gab, are you wearing a sando?” A sando is a Filipino word for the sleeveless undershirt. In a very soft voice he muttered, “No, I don’t have it.” I didn’t hear what he actually said so I asked him a second time, “Are you wearing sando?” He replied a bit louder, “I’m not wearing it.” I heard him alright and I got worried he could get cold. But I couldn’t believe what he said, so I asked him a third time, raising my voice a little bit in a surprised tone, “You’re not wearing a sando?!” To which he replied, raising his voice almost shouting back at me, “I’m not wearing a sando!” To this, I immediately poked my finger between the buttons of his shirt to see. And I saw that he was telling the truth. He was not wearing a sando, he was wearing the scout t-shirt under the scout uniform. I fell silent and continued driving to school.

Lesson learned. From an Apologetics point of view, sometimes we are like 10-year-old boys and girls. We speak truth, but we don’t frame our answer properly so that it can be properly understood by the questioner. We cannot frame our answers properly because we just don’t know much about the questioner and the context from where he or she is coming from. My son was 10 years old and I was the adult and it was probably my mistake right there. I didn’t listen to him the first time.

We are adults. For sure we can answer better than my son Gabriel whenever somebody asks us about our faith. The task is not just to answer the question as a matter of fact. There will be attending factors that prompted the questioner to raise the question, and we need to pay attention to them. These attending factors will not be easily visible from the question itself and usually the question will sprout from a deep emotional or spiritual need or concern. That need or concern is really what needs to be addressed, and when we are able to do that, we answer the person and not merely the question.

Fools are conceited. They have already made up their minds. Though they ask questions, they only ask to mock you. We are reaching out to truth seekers. There are people out there who are sincerely looking for answers. And a good answer can even make the fool change his mind.

It is very important to frame our answer on a personal level. We must remember that we are trying to communicate our answers to another person. I have found that we can always touch base with another person through clarity, sincerity, and honesty even when we don’t know the answer.

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In today’s world, there is a significant amount of misinformation about Christianity, what we believe, and what Jesus’ message was. Too often, we are frozen in an image of prohibitions and condemnation, and this misconception drives questions in the minds of non-believers or those looking for answers. However, rarely are those asking such questions truly interested just in the answer to the questions. Factual, propositional answers about what Christianity is do not provide the relational answers that can introduce men and women to Christ’s love.

Interacting with questioners can often be like facing an archer with a quiver of arrows. Each arrow is a question in the mind of the questioner(s), pulled from various sources like popular culture, intentional misrepresentations in the media, very real missteps by the Church in the past, and (of course) the real zingers popularized by the militant atheists of the world. The Christian can spend hours, spinning in circles dodging, deflecting and addressing each volley. But is any real progress ever made doing this?
Not often, I’d argue.

Instead, the most valuable move can instead be to ask the archer why he filled his quiver in the first place? Why did he pick up THOSE arrows, specifically? Why did he arm himself in the first place? And why aim at Christianity? By shifting the conversation from a series of independent attacks or questions with factual answers, the questioner is asked to put into words his or her foundational concerns. And inmost cases we will find that it is relational concerns that the individual has. Fear about associating with Christianity; fears about the impact faith would have on the individual’s relationships with others; fears about what accepting the reality of Christ could mean for how they view and relate to themselves.

But Christ did this incessantly. And EFFECTIVELY.

In John 8, when attacked with questions about the law, Jesus did not take the bait, and instead asked whether those that were condemning the sinning women whether they were in a position to. In Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus sees the trap of the Pharisees’ question about the imperial tax. In asking whose face was on the coin, Jesus cut straight to their assumptions, and did not fall into a legalistic conversation about taxes and the Law. Similarly, in Matthew 22:34-40, when the Pharisees again try to trap Jesus with an academic, legalistic question, trying to get Jesus to call out a single textual commandment as more important than the other, he instead attacks their assumptions, that there was ONE and not a larger approach that should be valued.

In each case, Jesus asked the questioner or challenger to review their own assumptions and foundations. As Ayn Rand’s famous character, John Galt was fond of saying: “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” I think Jesus would agree with this statement wholeheartedly. In my own life, given my background as both an evolutionary biologist and attorney, I had made a lot of assumptions about the world before coming to faith, which led me to identify apparent contradictions. However, upon reviewing those assumptions (about the church, about what the bible taught, about the very real academic pursuit of biblical understanding in the real world, etc.), I found that some were wrong. And by assessing my core assumptions, and correcting those that did not stand up to scrutiny, the apparent contradictions disappeared, and my life, and my relationship with Christ, bloomed as a result. (Thanks, Ravi!)

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On a related note, only 600 words @CarsonWeitnauer?
Your cruelty knows no bounds. :wink:

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Dear Carson
I don’t feel qualified to answer this question at this stage but I look forward to participating in future writing competitions.
Blessings!!

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Listening, the Language of Love

I stood in the church foyer chatting with a gentleman who frequently attends our services. I could hear the praise band start their first song, and the large clock on the wall told us we were late. But the conversation was too good to end. Fred was just opening up to me about his service in the Vietnam War, capture by the Vietcong, and escape through the jungle.

How could I say, “Thank you for your service, but the clock says it’s a few minutes past 10:00"? Love told me to listen. So we chatted a little longer and slipped into the service late.

As I settled in for the sermon, I realized why I have such a hard time extricating myself from conversations. Listening is my love language. I can’t walk away. I want people to know I care.

Then I heard God’s gentle whisper, “Jenny, it’s My love language, too.”

This is a love I can’t comprehend, a God who wants to hear me, who likes to listen. My prayer life limps along because it’s a duty. From childhood I was taught to pray for my family and friends, government officials, missionaries, and the unsaved around the world.

Until that moment at church, I hadn’t grasped in my heart the incredible fact that God enjoys my voice. He expresses His love to me as He relishes each prayer.

This is the God I want my friends to meet. Not a God who gave us a bunch of rules to follow or a thick document of facts to memorize. Instead, He came near through the incarnation, He bore our sins on the cross, and He rose from the dead with the promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

But if this love is deeper than I can fathom, how do I expect my friends to understand or believe? They need to see it in me first. They need to know I care about the longings of their hearts, that I’ll listen to their struggles and feel the pain of the things they fear to mention.

I can’t just answer the question. I have to answer the questioner because that is what Jesus did for me.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 ESV).


Note: I changed Fred’s name out of respect for his privacy.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book entitled “The Ministry of Listening” writes that “the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Christians often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, they forget that listening can be of greater service than speaking”.

One simply cannot answer a question or respond to the questioner unless you were first and foremost listening. Listening is a skill and like any skill needs to be practiced on a regular basis. It is through the listening that we often gain an open door into answering the often-hidden question behind the question. That’s why it is so important to hear both the content of the question as well as to try and understand the questioner’s intention.

It is also during the listening that we have the ability to do some critical thinking (and praying). To think reflectively and independently in order to discover the root cause of the question and to make a thoughtful response.

Every person has a sort of lens through which they see the world. A bias through which the questions they ask are formed. That bias comes from all sorts of places and its not always bad. How and where we were raised along with our life experiences all contribute to that bias. By listening carefully to the questioner, a person may very well detect the bias through which the question is being asked. One can at that point not only begin to answer the question but also to address the root cause of the question.

It is often fairly easy to respond to a question with a quick answer. Easy to debunk some questions and prattle on. But it is in the careful listening (understanding the question behind the question) that the questioner also will begin to understand that they have worth. That you value them and therefore your response to their questions becomes valid.

As we listen and engage with the questioner we begin to understand where the question originates from. The actual question is not the most important part of the conversation. It may be pain through loss, the consequences of a sinful life, or anger at God for his supposed lack of love. Whatever the root may be, doors begin to open, and hearts change as God moves the discussion from just a question to the heart of the issue.

God then begins to work in our hearts as well. As we learn about the questioner God softens our hearts. Our bias towards the other person melts away and we begin to see them as God does.
Understanding the question behind the question, answering the questioner as well as the question becomes a win, win situation.

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I suppose most often the real questions they are asking are hidden. A man asked Jesus, “Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”. What is this guy really asking? I think he wanted to find a way to keep his life in this world and still have reward in Heaven.

Jesus: “Keep the commandments”
Man: “Which ones?”
Jesus: “Here’s a list of them”
Man: “Ok, no problem Jesus, I am sure I’ve not broken even one of them”
Jesus: “Looks good, but there’s just one more thing. I know that you are bound up with the cares of this world. I love you, I really do. Here’s my invitation: Go sell what you have and give to the poor, and I will make a deposit for you in the Bank of Heaven. Unburdened from your riches on earth, you will then be able to follow Me”
Man: “Thanks but no thanks, Jesus. I rather like the life I have, I’m not interested in another one”.

He seemed interested in the Kingdom. He was asking about eternal life, but alas he was asking about it on his own terms, wanting to keep his temporal life and still somehow find a way into Heaven. Jesus knew his heart, so He answered the question he was really asking, which was, “Can I keep my life in this world, and still be saved?” Not so much, my friend.

I suppose opportunities to answer their real questions are all around us, if we are willing to stop and listen. We can’t get to their hearts by answering the questions on their lips, for most often they are not really looking for an answer, but are seeking to justify their sin. If we are listening carefully, the Lord will show us the real question, and allow us to ask it at the opportune time.

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Burden Behind the Question
*One night, me and my friend got to talking and she suddenly asked me how I could trust in God and that He is good after everything I’ve been through. You see, I lost my mother a few years ago and I was barely 21 at the time. But the more I began to explain to her the gospel, emphasizing the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which was and is the source of my comfort and hope, I realized that her question was not posed based on my experience but hers. *
When someone asks us a question about our faith, we tend to be so eager to put our “knowledge” on display that we forget to see a living, breathing human behind the question. If we listen closely, we will realize that there is a burden behind the question that has it roots in their worldview and their own struggles to understand life, both theirs and others through it. There will be staggering pain, unexplained tears, broken hearts, torn down relationships and if we fail to listen in our pride of being “superior” in knowledge, we will end up causing unintentional albeit extreme damage. If we don’t see the human being behind the question, we will end up making dire assumptions about the context from which the question stems and we may answer the question correctly, but we will most definitely drive the person away.
Jesus was a great example when it came to answering questions. He knew how to answer the rich (Luke 18:18-30), He knew how to answer the poor. He knew how to answer the broken-hearted (John 4:4-30) and the grieving (John 11:21-33). But He also knew how to tackle those who questioned Him just to trap Him, by questioning them back and exposing their motives (Mark 11:27-33). But whatever the question maybe, He always answered the questioner, a person who is in a dire need of both truth and grace that will restore their relationship with God. So it would serve us well to remember the same,that when a person asks us a question, he/she is not looking for an answer as much they are in a desperate need of a Savior. So do be prepared to answer, but as our dear brother Saint Peter ever so graciously reminds us, do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15,16). May God bless you with the wisdom that comes from above as you work towards the extension of His Kingdom.

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I will start with an excerpt of a poem by Matthew Arnold :

“Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal’d
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal’d
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Trick’d in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves —and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!”

The poem tells of a deep desire to be known and of a deep fear of being rejected. When people
ask questions, they are exposing part of their inner world, one that cannot be reached from outside if the door is locked from the inside. A question opens the door to the world inside, like a key to someone’s mind.
How do we walk in, if not with wonder and curiosity about what lies behind that door? Because we are about to tread sacred grounds. Will we stay by the door? Or will we venture into someone’s world of thoughts?
By just answering the question, without taking into account the questioner, i. e. , without seeing him/her as a complex being with desires and fears, beliefs and disbeliefs, a soul and a mind, we will not go further than the door, because it will soon be slammed on our faces.
Everyone has a vestige of one of God’s attributes - the
desire to reveal himself and be known. A desire that can only be satisfied in relationship. Answering the questioner makes it possible to walk hand in hand on a road of discovery of oneself and the other.

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There are many types of questioners and a response should be tailored to the type. Not all questioners are really seekers of truth. Some are just stirring trouble and dissent and Jesus answered those differently than true seekers. Matthew 15:1-3 is such a case when the Pharisees accused the disciples saying, “why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “and why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” His terse answer to their foolishness reflected their foolishness and was markedly different from how He engaged true casual or faithful seekers. This is an example of Him shutting down the foolish by challenging their foundational premise of why the question asked was even valid.

But, awareness of a questioners heart and motive is also of importance when conditioning an appropriate positive response. And, providing an answer to the wrong heart question because one doesn’t understand the true intent of the of the questioner can be an exercise of knowledge without wisdom or effect. Proverbs 18:13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame”. Having a lot of knowledge might lead one to give a snap answer without really connecting to the questioner and their real issue, which commonly requires context in order to apply knowledge properly to the situation. Engaging the questioner to understand the context of their question is critical to answering their need instead of simply supplying information.

Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purpose of a man’s heart is like deep water but a man of understanding will draw it out”. To be people of understanding, we need to remain aware that asked questions can be an open door to a person’s “deep water” but that counter questions with spiritual discernment can allow one to understand/grasp what is really going on in their soul, so that we give an answer that is actually meaningful to them in their search. Active listening can help us overcome stereotypes and presumptions and lead us to a place of true engagement, which can be transformational.

By asking a question, a true seeker is wanting us to step into their world and engage them in a manner that is meaningful to their experience. The uniqueness of each individual deserves and requires us to seek their heart before giving an answer and this can protect us from providing harmful, insensitive information not crafted well to the need of the questioner.

Of note, I remember seeing a video in which one of Ravi’s questioners actually ended up asking him, after he broke down the illogical basis of their question, “what am I actually asking you then?” Ravi softened and told him, “sir, you may not be trained to a point that you are ready to engage in a debate, but I hear the cry of your heart saying, How can I know that God is real?” And, he went on to give him an answer to that question. With discernment, he applied knowledge with wisdom as he engaged that young man to provide an answer that was relevant to his experience and context.

Lastly, winning the battle but losing the war is a useless outcome. As apologists, we are about presenting truth to bring people into the kingdom of God. But, if we present truth in a manner that is not engaging or, in fact, unnecessarily offensive, we can actually create in impediment to future acceptance of Jesus and the faith.

My thoughts. Hope they’re helpful!

Kevin

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In Peter’s first letter, we’re given what is commonly accepted as the definition of apologetics. When questioned about our faith, Peter calls us “to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you”. It’s a call that appeals to the mind behind the question, but it also encourages us to defend our faith in a way that will be meaningful to the questioner, in that we are not merely giving “a” reason but rather giving our reason.

Paul also speaks to this in his first letter to Corinth…

1 Corinthians 9:19-22 – For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

We are, by nature, intimate beings. We crave connection. When we have a question – even when we ask “gotcha” questions as the Pharisees so often did with Jesus – the question itself has relevance to us, even beyond whatever answer we might receive, as Paul again alludes to later in this same letter…

1 Corinthians 13:2 – And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

South Alabama Translation: You can have the rightest answer in the world, but if you don’t give your answer in a way that your target audience will listen, you might as well be dead wrong for all the good it’ll do them. This being the case, answering the questioner is at least as important as answering the question, if not infinitely more so.

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Once upon a time, there was a woman with a question. She was an ordinary woman, on an ordinary day as she walked into an ordinary church. A church that probably looks like the one you attend.

As she walked up the stone steps she was politely greeted by a lady who was bustling about, going at a clip that left one dizzy to stare at.

The lady not only carried an enormous smile, but a piling assortment of odds and ends in her hands. She managed a nod as she balanced books, bibles, coffee mugs, and coloring crayons in her arms.

“Hello,” the lady greeted the woman. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. But the church is about to be locked up for the night. But the Pastor will be through in a minute.”

The lady barely paused to finish her sentence, as she sprinted out the door.

The woman stood there, unsure of what to do. Then true to the woman’s word, the Pastor arrived. He was smartly dressed carrying a briefcase, and finishing a conversation on his phone. He hung up and smiled.

“Hi, I’m the Pastor,” he introduced as he politely offered his hand. “Nice to meet you and thank you for coming to our church. However, I must apologize, as I am running late to see a parishioner in the hospital. But feel free to stay, the door will lock behind you.”

And with that, he vanished.
The woman sighed, perplexed.

She took a seat in one of the pews, staring at the large wooden cross erected in front of the marble altar. She bowed her head as she traced the lines carved by generations of use in the wooden board of the pew.

The silence was broken by the squeak of a rusty wheel. An old man emerged pushing a small cleaning packed with various cleaning supplies. His back slightly was slightly hunched.

He made his way, slowly over to where she was sitting. He remained solemn as he slowly took a seat beside her on the wooden bench.

After a few moments of silence, he cleared his throat and asked, “What brings you here today?”

The woman never turned but simply whispered, “I have a question.” Her voice heavy with sadness.

“Ohh,” he said softly. “My child, what question is on your heart?”

The woman sat in silence for a minute before responding, “I want to know if God is real.” She burst into tears at the very moment the words spilled out.

The man offered her a tissue from his shirt pocket, “Now that is the most important question. A question I asked myself right here in this pew many many years ago.”

The woman took the tissue and turned to face him. Her eyes looked tired and swollen from crying. Lines creased her face.

“You did?” She asked. “And what did you find to be the answer?”

The man smiled, lighting up his sparkling gray eyes behind his spectacles. He answered,
“Let me tell you about the One who cares about all the questions on your heart. His name is Jesus.”

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The question is the wound of the soul.

The questioner is seeking that which is inarticulate and with staggering steps of tentative belief; this questioner wades through the darkness, stretching his fingertips out to the light streaming through the cracks of heavens door.

For that which bleeds is living.

There is no shortage of words that circulate in the realm of existentialism. The problem with these words is they haven’t been washed, sterilized, made pure, by the living waters of Christ. Thus, they clot the wound of the questioner with festering bandages, infecting the surface and slowly polluting the heart.

Most answer seekers already know what they’re seeking after. What answers seekers don’t know and what prompts them to expose their seeping wound to be examined, is that gentle bandage of love, the spotless gauze weaved from the seamless cloak of our Lord and stained with a crimson flow dark enough to cover the exposing light of True Justice.

For those who lead from the darkness, have once dwelled in the cavernous shafts of searching and have discovered the way out.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17.

Answers, pierce with a sword, a sword stained with our own blood.

The answers we carry around with us are the direct reflection of our God’s revelation to our minds.

When questions are answered directly, questions that plead for healing truth, and we answer them for satisfactory sake, for the sake of completion and logic, this approach reveals a selfish heart.

That’s harsh, I know, but truth holds the tendency to slay and rise again.

For no question is without thought, and no thought is without mind, and no mind is without the image of the creative God.

For no answer is without pretense, no pretense is without security, and no security is without apprehensive fear that carefully guards the sensitivities of shallowness.

Love is the transcendent fuel that burns the transient motives to rubble.

“ For who do you say I am?”

A question from the questioned.

The way we respond to the wounded seeker, the way we triage the concern, is our subconscious answers to the question proposed by Jesus to Peter.

For when questions pass beyond the ears and echo within the heart, then and only then, can we see the wound healed from the Great Physician. The God of healing the very One who has healed our mortal lacerations.

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Jesus loves questions. He answered many — sometimes even before they were asked — and he asked lots of questions himself. I can see why. Questions are a means of grace, although the church does not officially recognize them as such.

Questions are a means of grace because they engage us in conversation. They get us thinking and talking. They bring us into the realm where God can answer and this is where faith begins, because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:9). The connection of questions with faith is important because we are saved by grace through faith. Think of questions as a seedbed where grace sows the seeds of salvation.

An example will make the point.

Luke tells about two disciples who didn’t know what to make of the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 24:13-35). Anyone looking at them would know they were upset; the word that our English Bibles translates as “sad” or “gloomy” literally means “angry faced.” They were sullen. Anyone getting near them would know to leave them alone. Yet, Jesus approached. Grace always takes the first step. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. When we were enemies, God reconciled us. We love him, because he first loved us. When these two disciples were discouraged, confused and even angry, Jesus drew near.

Then, Jesus took the second step of grace. He asked a question. Nothing profound, just a query, “What are you talking about?” They were questioning each other, with no resolution, then Jesus broke in and his question got them talking to him, the author of faith. On the surface, they simply talked about current events, but Jesus wanted to talk to their hearts because the flame of their faith was dying.

If Jesus were to ask them at this moment, “Who do you say that I am?” they would share none of Peter’s bold confession. Their hopes of Jesus being the Redeemer of Israel had died on the cross along with their prophet. Suffering ruled him out as the savior. Unless…

Unless there is more to the story. And this is where the questions become a means of grace. Jesus got them to put the events of the day into their own words so that he could inject his Father’s word. He walked them through the Scriptures and showed how the events they just described had been foretold. He got them to see that the things concerning Jesus of Nazareth — his life before God and man, his suffering and death and resurrection — were the very things concerning the Christ. By connecting the historical events to biblical prophecy, Jesus did not just renew their hope, he fulfilled it. Their hearts flamed with new understanding and “burned within” them.

If Jesus asked them now, “Who do you say that I am?” what do you think they would say?

This encounter illustrates why it is so important to answer not just the question, but also the one asking. Allowing these men their questions and asking his own, Jesus ushered these discouraged, doubting disciples into a firm faith — the faith through which grace saves. Our questions may drip with doubt, ooze with skepticism, or brim with eagerness to know the truth, but they all can be a means of grace so that “in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached” (Philippians 1:18).