Last night, I helped out as a table leader for a course we’re running at our church, and one person at my table was really interesting. Fairly new to anything surrounding Christianity, he was smart as a whip, answered lots of questions, and had some surprising insights. It was cool to see what he was getting out of the experience so far.
I was pleased with how things were going. And then as we talked about the concept of sin and why Jesus would say something so extreme as to cut off your hand or foot or gouge out your eye if it causes you to stumble, for it would be better to go through life maimed than be cast into hell (see Mark 9:43-47), I eventually asked about whether or not we can do something good enough to make up for our sin.
Mostly silence. Then finally a hesitant yes from my new friend. If we do something wrong, we can cancel it out with something good. So we talked about that a little more—not with me saying, you’re wrong and here’s why, but asking questions and giving examples from my own life.
Finally, as I could see he was starting to get irritated, he asked me, “Why do you keep asking me the same question just in different ways?”
What I told him was pretty simple: I wanted him to think about the answer he was giving.
See, I needed him to think about whether or not it made sense given the rest of what we’d talked about that night (and if it would still made sense after we were done the course). And sometimes the best way to do that isn’t to outright say, “You’re wrong and here’s why.” Sometimes you need to get someone to the point that they’re willing to ask the question behind the question.
This, I think, is why Jesus kept responding to questions with questions. I think it’s why we keep getting posed the same questions over and over again in the Scriptures. It’s not because Jesus was being evasive any more than I believe the authors of Scripture—and ultimately the Holy Spirit—were being obtuse.
It’s that we need to really feel the weight of the problem before we can see the answer.
Our natural bend is to think that we can do enough good to make up for our bad. We have an intrinsic sense of justice within us—an understanding of an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth, if you will. But what the Bible consistently points us to is the fact that we cannot balance the scales on our own. There is no amount of good deeds that can make up for the wrong we’ve done (or the right we’ve failed to do). We can’t do this because the problem we face doesn’t lie in our actions, but in our hearts. And we can’t change our hearts.
Only God can. And this is why Christ came—not only to bring forgiveness of sins for all who believe, but to give all who believe new hearts, new desires, new affections. A desire to love and please him that simply doesn’t exist without him placing it within us.
That’s what he wants us to get. That’s why he keeps asking the same question. So let’s keep asking it to, because eventually it’ll drive us to the answer we need.
photo credit: Tell me…when will the grey, dark and snowy days end? via photopin (license)