Christians often claim that Jesus is “The Answer,” and I would never disagree with such a statement. At the same time, Jesus asked an awful lot of questions. In fact, approximately 300 are recorded in the gospels. The Son of God obviously understood the power of a question. A few examples are:
- Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? (Matt 15:3)
- Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? (Mark 8:17-18)
- If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? (John 21:22)
The God who created our universe has never been short on knowledge, and yet, He consistently asked questions. Why? Mostly, it seems that He was challenging people to evaluate their own thought processes and perspectives.
The Son of God was the highest authority ever to walk this earth, and yet, He asked as many questions as He gave answers. What does that say about us humans who know far less than what Jesus did? I cannot help but wonder how much of our societal conflict would dissipate if we all better understood the power of a question.
Challenging thought processes is only one reason for us to make an inquiry. At least three other motivations would take us a long way in our efforts to foster peace in a conflict-fueled culture.
Ask Questions to Thoroughly Investigate a Matter
I am often amazed at the high degree of expertise people often achieve after reading only an online article from an obviously biased source. Well before the advent of the internet, I learned the importance of asking questions before jumping on the most recent work-place “bandwagon.” More than once, a few of my co-workers got up in arms about an issue, only to be proven wrong a short time later. A writer of Proverbs put it this way:
He who gives an answer before he hears,
It is folly and shame to him.
Jumping to conclusions is easy. Investigating various arguments takes much more effort. I have learned, however, the value of seeking to understand even opposing perspectives. Often, with a controversial topic, I will read several conflicting articles in an effort to get to the truth. Only then am I in a “wiser position” to make my personal views public.
I also find other benefits to investigating viewpoints that differ from mine. Sometimes, I realize that my own perspective is not quite accurate and that adjustments in my thinking need to be made. Learning to make such adjustments is part of the personal growth process.
Furthermore, even when my own opinion does not change, my understanding of an issue will increase. Thus, if I think that an opposing perspective is wrong, asking questions puts me in a better position to articulate why.
Ask Questions to Better Understand People’s Perspectives
The truth of the matter is that many of our political and social arguments are driven by our emotions as much—if not more—than our intellects.
Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of avoidable conflict involves the practice of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination. Those who feel that it is wrong to kneel would do well to sit down with a black person who has encountered a lifetime of discrimination. On the other hand, those who choose to protest during the anthem might learn a lot from talking with a person who has been wounded or lost a loved one in combat. Few would question the right to protest. Their primary concern is about an apparent lack of respect.
Regarding this particular issue, I am also compelled to ask when kneeling became offensive. I get it that sitting during the anthem is a huge sign of disrespect, but I don’t understand who made that determination about kneeling. In ancient times, kneeling before a king would have been respectful, while standing might have presented an affront. Exactly who decided that kneeling was bad?
These are the types of conversations that we need to have if we are to foster peace and unity in our nation.
Ask Questions to Understand Nuance
If there is one thing that our social perspectives despise, it is nuance. We prefer to present our arguments as either right or wrong, painting them in colors of black and white. Reality, however, is often more complicated.
Is there a strong temptation for law enforcement officers to revel in power and oppress minorities? Of course, there is. But not all police officers succumb to this temptation. The truth is that some are good and others are not. When we choose to draw an indelible “black lives matter” versus “blue lives matter” line, we are making a huge, conflict-inducing mistake by missing the nuances of reality.
The Power of a Question
Until we understand (and apply) the power of a question, societal peace will elude us, but well-timed inquiries can help build bridges to link supposedly opposing groups. Sometimes, the best “answer” is to ask.