Thursday, January 7, 2010

Job, John the Baptist, and Hospital Gowns. Any questions?

If we have one flaw as Christians, I would have to say it isn’t nominal faith, habitual sin, or even hypocrisy. It is something that goes so deep within us that we do not even see it for the problem it is. Maybe it is because our problem is also our greatest strength. One of those double edged sword dilemmas and one we really don’t know how to address. So we ignore it, build barriers and blinds to keep us from getting to close to it, and politely steer people away from it when we can.

The problem is we have the answer to everything, and I mean that quite literally. We know the answer to all of life’s difficulties, the mysteries of the universe, the meaning of life, the purpose of evil . . . we know the answer to it all. Issues and concerns that have razed the mind of the greatest thinkers the world has ever known and we have the answer.

The problem is we don’t know as much as we think we do. Yes, we have the answer – his name is Jesus, but we don’t know what he does, we don’t understand what he does, and we certainly cannot answer every question that life throws at us. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to make this distinction.

We get so comfortable having the answer that we forget to ask the important questions. We don’t say, “Hey, Jesus, I don’t get this. Life isn’t making sense, and I really need some answers.” We mutter to ourselves and assure our friends that we are just having faith like it is some mantra that will ward off the doubt and confusion that can haunt our souls.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some things in life that will always be a matter of faith. For these things there will be no easy explanations. For those things we cling to the knowledge that Jesus does love us and he is there in the midst of lives working out his plans and purposes. For some things we need to rest in that assurance, but when did we get the idea that faith meant not asking the question?

John the Baptist once sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah or should he look for another, and a lot of people have criticized John’s doubts. However, what we often miss is that John did the right thing. He had a question. He had a concern, and who wouldn’t? Here he had baptized Jesus, proclaimed him to be the chosen one of God, lived a life dedicated to showing the people that God’s promises were being fulfilled in this person of Jesus, but at this point John was rotting in jail cell and there would be no great escape for him.

John had guts. Nothing in his life had been easy, he chose to go where God led him, live the life that would most effectively demonstrate God’s intentions for a nation. He didn’t take the easy road, and even in this question he showed his courage to confront the issues in his life that did not make sense to him. He had a question, a valid one, and he asked the right person.

He realized he had more to learn, and was not content to simply have blind faith. He knew that as man he needed answers, and sometimes we are in the same situation. Life doesn’t make sense and we have doubts, but we push them aside as if they did not exist, act like we are okay with what is happening to us, but really we are quietly dying inside trying to avoid our fear. Our fear that our faith is inadequate or maybe even the fear that even God doesn't have a "good" answer, or worse, that God takes some sort of sadistic glee in our agony. We confuse denial with faith and feel holy about it.

Asking the questions doesn’t mean that we are entitled to an answer. God doesn’t owe it to us, and that is not what I am saying, but when we ask the questions we open the door to learn more. We take down the defenses and make way for true relationship. A relationship where I can be honest enough to say, “My faith is weak, and I don’t understand you. I love you, but I don’t get this. Can you help me understand?” Sometimes the answer is, “Because I’m Daddy and I said so.” Other times the answer is greater than we imagined, and have not because we asked not.

Job had a lot of questions when his life fell apart, and he confronted God, even accusing God of being unjust. He presented his questions to the One who had the answers, and he wasn’t shy about declaring his hurt feelings. Chapter after chapter of his story is Job’s protest, and his honest language with God is a challenge for God to vindicate his actions. He asked why this was allowed to happen, but God never answers Job’s question. He simply shows up. Job gets to experience God’s presence in his life. And after all, isn't experiencing God what faith is all about?

Having the Answer is the greatest gift we could have ever been given, but Jesus is not a band-aid to be slapped on over our wounds. He is the Great Physician and great physicians examine and probe the aches and pains. They get to know their patient as we wear those rather drafty hospital gowns. Asking the question is kind of like that revealing yourself in whole new way to the one who has the cure, opening the door to presence so that we can experience him. And those list of problems so many people site with Christianity, nominalism, sin, and hypocrisy, all begin to heal as we experience him.

So ask your questions. He’s big enough to handle them.

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