Questions: To modestly go where some might have gone before!
It’s almost 4pm, I’m sitting here finishing my cup of green tea, and wrapping my mind around Chris’s challenge: “Jesus is the answer!: But what is the question?”.In Malaysia, we are used to slogans, and catchy phrases flood our TV screens as well as our digital screens. Since a lot of our Christian expressions are imported from places who have a knack for coining phrases, it’s not surprising we jump on the bandwagon.
While I’m not going to start a debate on whether Jesus is THE answer or not, we’ll leave that for another day. I plan to take a step back and ask with Chris, “What is the question?” or better “What are the questions?”. Chris starts the ball rolling directed to the Church at large:
“what is her relationship to society at large? To be more specific: (1) What is her stand on the marginalized in society? (2) What is the Church stand on power?”
Nothing too disrespectful right? It’s not questioning the authority of the church (yet). It’s asking so we can think through this together. So we can enter a dialogue on these important issues facing us in Malaysia for a start. We need to talk about issues concerning the society, i.e., the world we live in. We need to ask what does it mean to be ‘marginalized’; who is ‘marginalized’, what is ‘power’; who is ‘powerful’ and who is ‘powerless’?
But we can’t get stuck there surely, because the driving question always at least to me is: so what? And to push it further, so what are we going to do about it? I love questions. In fact, since February 2011, I’ve been sitting here my work space learning to ask questions afresh. It’s not simple, but it’s worth the effort.
Of course, if we consider ourselves part of the Church, we say for example we are the body of Christ, then it’s only right to make it more personal if you like.
“What is my relationship to society at large? What is my stand on the marginalized in society? What is my stand on power?”
Perhaps due to our educational upbringing, we are afraid to offer the wrong answer. We don’t like to get it wrong. It might be due to the fear of embarrassment or looking stupid. May be we think there must be get it right the first round. Or, let’s leave it to the experts and those who should know better. But, the moment we do that, we are unfortunately detaching ourselves from claiming ownership at least for ourselves towards the answers. Because, we might be afraid, we might have to be the answer in one way or another. In other words, asking the questions will lead us to find the answers for them, and take responsibility not just for the results of the inquiry, but also to act as the further result deriving from the answer.
If I take this line of thought, then saying ‘Jesus is the answer’ does have a twist to it. Because, unlike an un-reflected slogan, a sneak peak at the four gospels in the New Testament gives quite a clear idea what the answers Jesus would have offered to the burning questions of his time. We can try it with our original phrasing again in present tense:
What is his relationship to society? What is his stand on the marginalized in society? What is his stand on power?
I like questions. I find that they lead me somewhere. It doesn’t have to be ‘profound’ or even ‘complicated’. It might require some courage, perhaps not as impressive like the classic Star Trek slogan: “to boldly go where no one has gone before!”. Sure, many have gone before and answered the questions Chris has raised, and the one’s I’ve adapted for myself and to re-look at Jesus in the gospels again. We stand on the shoulders of the wise people before us, but at the end of the day, we’ll still need to answer them for ourselves. And as we relook at our answers, we might also reconsider our questions. As we look at the answers of others, I suspect we’ll discover slowly but surely the questions that drove them on their search as well.
So, one last sip of my green tea. It’s tempting to press on and give my sample answers to the questions above. But, alas, the purpose of this post is to get us asking the questions and not be overly satisfied with quick fix answers. My answers can come another time, I’m more interested to get you to first ask, and then we can exchange notes .
This is my modest request, as I end this modest post.
(Feel free to start in the comment section)