This post was originally submitted to RZIM for a writing competition.
I wasn’t always a Christian; in fact I was repulsed at the idea for a long time. Last year I ended up going on a “spiritual journey” to “find myself.” By God’s grace – leading me out of Eastern practices to eventually read the Bible for myself, cover to cover – I found Him.
I’m a 20 year old Christian woman living in the heat of a secular-liberal generation. Fabulous! I’ve had to take a step back to remember how I perceived things as a non-Christian, and delve into the Bible for wisdom on how to spread the Gospel smartly in today’s explosive climate.
From my understanding now, I’ll briefly attempt to explain why I think it’s important to answer not only the question, but also the questioner.
Focussing on the Heart of the Issue
Before finding God, I always suspected a hidden motive in Christians when they tried philosophising with me. It felt like they cared about “saving me” more than me. My defensive walls would instantly come up. In a post-modern world, where truth is seen as relative, people become suspicious of anyone coming to them with a “one true way” mentality. Therefore, answering people’s questions in a textbook-fashion alone just fuels their suspicion.
When we direct our attention to answering the questioner we get to know them and as they sense that we care about them, their walls come down and they’re more likely to let us into their hearts (and consequently, the roots of their questions and hidden assumptions). With this foundation we are able to effectively answer their questions in a way that can bring them closer to God instead of repelling them. But, there’s no point playing in the branches when we haven’t even gotten to the roots .
Answering the questioner, not just the question, is also in line with God’s heart. Is our God not the One who takes the time to really listen (Jn. 5:15) and knows more than we do about ourselves (PS. 139), meeting our needs from that place of understanding? If we are called to reflect the living God (2 Cor. 3:18, Col. 3:10, Eph. 4:24) we should be seeking relationship with the questioner; listening to them, getting to know where they are coming from and answering them from there. We see how God does this practically by reading about Jesus. He never answered a question in a long-winded way, but rather focused on answering the heart of the questioner. In fact, he often ended up questioning the questioner! Mark 10:2-12, Mat. 21:23-27 and Luke 20:20-27 are just a few (very entertaining) examples of Jesus bypassing questions alone and answering the heart of the questioner. Jesus knew what He was doing and we should be following His example.
Answering for love, not to be right
Ultimately, I believe that we should to do our best to have our tools ready and sharpened: our biblical knowledge, apologetics, maybe a bit of psychology… But we should not have recited answers. No matter how intelligent they are, they can’t serve as “the winning formula” for converting souls – only God can do that.
When we get asked a question, we have to surrender everything to God and say “Holy Spirit please help me to apply (or not apply) these tools according to the deep, individual needs of the questioner behind this question.” Who knows (apart from God of course), maybe the person behind the question is just a hug or prayer away from relationship with Jesus and an argument away from building a higher wall.
To conclude, this quote by Ravi Zacharias helped me realize the ultimate importance of answering not just the question but the questioner: “It’s about winning the person, not the argument.”