That’s a Great Question

Albert Einstein famously said, “Question everything,” but it was Jesus who practiced what Einstein preached. Contrary to popular assumptions, Jesus was not a robotic Answer Man; he was more like the Great Questioner. According the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Jesus asks over 300 questions during his earthly ministry. Surprisingly, he answers only three. That’s quite a ratio, but it aligns with the m.o. of Yahweh in the Old Testament. God was known for asking his people lots of questions, too. Like Father like Son.

Now, if omniscience asks questions, it’s not to ellicit information; it’s to reveal it. In everyday life, our responses to the questions put to us have a way of exposing our hopes, fears, values, passions, and aspirations. They unveil our muddled thinking and our gaps in understanding. They demonstrate our innovation and creativity. They uncover our souls, for as Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

Asking questions can unlock learning and enhance interpersonal bonding, provided they’re not impossible “gotcha” questions designed to intimidate or humiliate (e.g., “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”). Jesus doesn’t work for cable news. He works for his heavenly Father, who deeply desires a relationship with every human being, his highest order of creation. Since relationships by nature are dynamic and reciprocal, questions are part of the interaction between God and humanity. There’s give-and-take and back-and-forth—a rhythm of geneuine conversation allowing both parties to play the role of a subject, not merely an object.

Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John have noted, “The wellspring of all questions is wonder and curiosity and a capacity for delight. We pose and respond to queries in the belief that the magic of a conversation will produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Sustained personal engagement and motivation—in our lives as well as our work—require that we are always mindful of the transformative joy of asking and answering questions.”

God doesn’t ask questions because he needs to know. He asks questions to reveal and relate. Yes, we might have some questions for God in the life to come—who doesn’t?—but God has some questions for us in the life we have right now. Why not spend some time relating to him over some of the questions he’s already asked?

Questions God may ask us about our EMOTIONAL life.

  • “Why are you angry?” (Gen 4:6b) 
  • “Why are you crying?” (John 20:15b)
  • “If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:26)

Questions God may ask us about our THOUGHT life.

  • “Have you never read the Scriptures?” (Matt 21:42a)
  • “Why are you thinking such things in your heart?” (Mark 2:8b)
  • “Do you not yet understand?” (Matt 16:8)
  • “Are even you likewise without understanding?” (Mark 7:18)

Questions God may ask us about our PHYSICAL life.

  • “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor 6:19a)
  • “Do you want to be well?” (John 5:6b)
  • Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2)
  • “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36a)

Questions God may ask us about our INTERPERSONAL life.

  • “What are you discussing as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17)
  • “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man?” (Luke 10:36a)
  • “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8b)
  • “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matt 5:46)

Questions God may ask us about our SPIRITUAL life.

  • “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9)
  • “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Gen 3:11b)
  • “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen 18:14)
  • “What is your name?” (Gen 32:27a)
  • “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I command?” (Luke 6:46)
  • “Do you love me?” (John 21:16)

Questions God may ask us about our MISSIONAL life.

  • “Whom shall I send?” (Isa 6:8b)
  • “What is that in your hand?” (Exod 4:2b)
  • “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 8:5)
  • “Are there not twelve hours in a day?” (John 11:9)
  • “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44b)

Maybe the most all-encompassing question God could ask us is this one: “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Gen 16:8b). Certainly the most important question he could ask was raised by his Son, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). The two questions are actually related.

So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a seat, and “have a little talk with Jesus,” as the old gospel song puts it.

Created to Create: Imagineering Our Way through Life

  • “I am imagination. I can see what the eyes cannot see. I can hear what the ears cannot hear. I can feel what the heart cannot feel.” (Peter Nivio Zarlenga)

  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” (Albert Einstein)

  • “If we have learned anything else it is that the ideas of the poets and artists penetrate where everything else has failed.” (Norman Cousins)

  • “The value of the cleansed imagination in the sphere of religion lies in its power to perceive in natural things shadows of things spiritual.” (A. W. Tozer)

  • “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” (Michelangelo)

One of the first things we learn about God in Scripture is that he is creative (Gen 1:1). He is both original and originating. Setting aside the important question of why there is something rather than nothing, the universe as an object to be observed bears the marks of order, design, artistry, and imaginativeness. Have you ever seen a giraffe up close? Or an otter? Or a platypus? Can all such oddities be chalked up to biological happenstance, or is God is the original “imagineer”? It is reasonable to conclude the latter.

Moreover, as human beings made in the image of God, we are people who can create. Don’t pass over that truth too quickly. God creates people who can create! Indeed, we often find some of our greatest fulfillment in life by creating things—songs, poems, paintings, novels, sculptures, clothing, cabinetry, etc. By cultivating our inner lives—by nurturing and living out the image of God in us—we can use our imaginations for the glory of God, leading to much personal satisfaction as a byproduct. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis are a perfect case in point. Lewis was a gifted and effective “imagineer” for the gospel, and writing children’s stories was a great personal delight to him.

Scripture

The Bible itself bears witness to the power of the imagination:

  • The delightful description of growing older in Ecclesiastes 12
  • The curious visions of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and John
  • The earthy parables of the kingdom by Jesus in the Gospels
  • The heartening portrayal of the New Jerusalem as a radiant bride in Revelation

The list is long. Consider the story of David and Absalom in 2 Samuel 17. David has been forced out of Jerusalem by Absalom, who now possesses his father’s throne, wives, and leadership of the army. But in the midst of his achievement, he has a problem. What should he do with his father-king who has escaped into the wilderness? Absalom solicits advice from two sources:

Ahithophel (17:1-4)

  • His advice is “left brain” (i.e., objective, precise, logical).
  • His emphasis is on information, analysis, the factual.
  • His approach is to be a conduit of information.
  • His message is “heard.”

Hushai (17:7-13)

  • His advice is right brain (i.e., subjective, affective, emotive).
  • His emphasis is on the hearer (“you” . . . “your”).
  • His approach is to be a painter of word pictures
    • “as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs”
    • “whose heart is like the heart of a lion”
    • “will melt with fear”
    • “sand on the seashore”
    • “dew settles on the ground”
  • His message is “seen and felt.”

Absalom and his advisors like Ahithophel’s plan, but Absalom still wants to hear Hushai’s counsel. When Hushai is finished offering his (more imaginative) presentation, everyone regards his plan as superior to Ahithophel’s, and that is the plan they follow.

Had they followed Ahithophel’s advice, they would have routed David. Instead, David’s life is spared (17:14). This turn of events is a fulfillment of David’s prayer that God would turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness (cf. 2 Sam 15:31).

Clearly, the impact of a presentation laced with imagination can be profound. Like any other capacity we have, imagination can be corrupted, but as A. W. Tozer noted (above), a cleansed imagination has much power.

Jesus

Jesus himself made use of the imaginative to communicate his message. His parables, for example, were not “Bible stories” when they were first told; they were short, simple, earthy stories invented to communicate important spiritual truths. Regarding these parables, Haddon Robinson writes, “[Jesus] didn’t read them out of a book. He made them up on the spot. He created them out of life. He used his imagination.” In other words, Jesus was not merely propositional in his teaching ministry. He was not static, flat, dull, or uninteresting. He was dynamic and pulsated with divine life. Michael Card, in his book Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity, describes the famous scene in John 8 where the woman is caught in the act of adultery, and Jesus curiously stoops down to write on the ground:

“It was art and it was theater at the same time, but it was more. It was what he did not say that spoke most powerfully to the mob that morning. It was a cup of cold water for a thirsty adulteress and an ice-cold drenching in the face to a group of angry Pharisees. To this day we have not the slightest idea what it was Jesus twice scribbled in the sand. By and large the commentaries have asked the wrong question through the ages. They labor over the content, over what he might have written. They ask what without ever realizing that the real question is why. It was not the content that mattered but why he did it. Unexpected. Irritating. Creative.”

Card goes on to suggest that Jesus’ stooping to write on the ground was his way of drawing the angry stares of the Pharisees and the nosey gawks of the crowd away from the woman and onto himself. The leers and hostility were now falling on him instead of the accused. That’s the gospel. Jesus became her substitute. It was an enacted parable of grace, verified by those climactic and memorable words, “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone. . . . Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Wonder

This re-presentation of the text is imagination at its finest, producing a true sense of wonder in the listeners. C. S. Lewis suggested that wonder is “the echo of a song the soul has not yet heard.” That is, it is a song coming to us from the Original Singer who sang all of creation into existence.

In his book Recapture the Wonder, Ravi Zacharias writes, “Wonder is that possession of the mind that enchants the emotions while never surrendering reason. . . . It interprets life through the eyes of eternity while enjoying the moment, but never lets the momentary vision exhaust the eternal.”

Let us, then, be “wonder-full” people. Let us keep creating good and beautiful things that speak well of our Creator, in whose image we are made. Let us imagineer our way through life.

Image Credits: pexels.com; stacksnap.io; saltradioministries.com.