Careful questions vs thoughtful questions

Friday, June 5

scripture reading: john 8:1-11




I remember many years ago I traveled to Nebraska to attend a church conference. I lodged at the home of an older couple whose house was large enough that three other conference attendees also stayed with them. The couple was warm and hospitable and I was quickly made to feel welcome. There was something else I appreciated about the man of the house: he knew how to ask questions!

One evening, after our conference meetings were finished, we gathered in their living room where he led a spirited conversation that went late into the night. And the topics we covered did not include the weather! Rather, he led a conversation involving four complete strangers in a discussion about many of the most controversial subjects in the church and society at the time. Everybody was involved, invested—at very different places—and yet by the end of the night we were friends!

However, it didn’t escape my notice that there was one person who was not enjoying the conversation—his wife. I could tell by the scowl on her face, the lasers beaming from her eyes, and the fact that she spoke barely a word the entire night. My interpretation was confirmed when he came to me the next morning apologizing for asking the questions he did. While I certainly didn’t want get in the middle of a marital spat, I didn’t think an apology was necessary. In fact, I found his questions refreshing.  

We have already considered the master Jesus was at asking questions. In today’s text we find two more. Having freed the adulterous woman from the clenches of the Pharisees by exposing their own hypocrisy, Jesus asked her these questions: “Woman, where are they?”  "Did no one condemn you?” Contrary to what you might assume, His questions were not meant to dismiss her actions but for her to be able to feel the freedom of being released from sin’s bondage: “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.” (Verse 11)   

Many of us work hard to be careful with the kind if questions we ask people. There are places we are afraid to go and so we settle for surface questions, safe questions. Like where they work, where they live, if they think the weather is nice! It’s another thing to ask questions about politics, racism, human sexuality, God, or Covid-19 conspiracy theories. But often it’s the case the questions we are afraid to ask pertain to the subjects that matter most to people; questions that, when we do ask them, make the light come on in their eyes! 

Wisdom and discernment must always be exercised in the questions we ask. But the goal is not to become good at asking careful questions, but thoughtful questions. The purpose of asking such thoughtful questions is not to incite an argument, but to make space in our lives for others where they feel loved and accepted; and where they will feel safe to talk about the deeper issues of life. And never underestimate the door this may open to talk about the deepest and most important matter of all—where they are at in their relationship with Jesus.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach me how to make space in my heart for others. Amen.   

Pastor Marc