I originally posted this on my church web site. I thought I would x-post it here in my personal blog.

One of the occupational hazards of being a pastor is the impulse to give answers to people’s questions…even the ones they don’t ask. I am, however, becoming increasingly convinced that questions are far more valuable than answers. Let me explain.

The more I learn from the Scriptures, the more questions I have. Although the questions become deeper, sometimes the questions raised are “simple” ones. It isn’t that the Scriptures don’t provide answers. The issue is, what kind of answers do we seek?

An answer that raises no questions, acknowledges no questions or even doubt, is a dead end. There is no where to go to dig deeper, grow in understanding and perhaps even correcting error. On the other hand, answers that raise new questions promote deeper understanding, open the door for fresh dialogue and yes, even correction. This means of course that there are in a sense, no answers, only new questions.

Some may find this endless line of questioning troublesome, but I don’t. It is through the questions that we gain understanding. We grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures, of Theology, of God Himself as we dig deeper, asking new questions. We stagnate when we merely accept answers with no further questions. Our life as Christians becomes stale when we quit asking questions.

My own journey with Christ began not with answers, but with questions. I asked a couple of Christian friends a question. They tried to answer it, but realized that the answer they had was inadequate. That lead us to embark on a journey of questions together and the rest is history. By the way, I haven’t found the answer to the question.

To Be A Christian

From time to time I go back to those basic questions of the Christian faith. I need to step back because it seems as humans we are constantly complicating things. With respect to being a Christian, we add on expectations and duties we deem necessary if one is to be considered a “real Christian.”

Consider this statement, “if you are right with God you will read your Bible every day.” Is that a true statement? How about, “if you are living for Christ you will be in a right relationship with everyone else around you.” Is that a true statement? I know some people who would say yes, but I say no.

The problem is that both of these imply the necessity of the action, reading your Bible or being in right relationship, in order to be “right with God” or “living for Christ.” There is an implicit priority of doing the “right thing” to be acceptable to God. As well intended as these kind of statements are, they are wrong.

The statements are wrong for two reasons. First they presume, if only by a thread, that our works justify us before God. The implicit priority is right behavior and then acceptability. “You are good when you do ________ .” Second, and closely related, they negate grace. The statements in effect suggest, modify behavior and then “be right with God.”

That is not to say that what we do does not matter. For that matter, there is even something of a priority of act. Consider Matthew 10:38,

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

… and Matthew 16:24,

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Exactly what it means to ‘take up your cross’ is no trivial question. The question of how do we ‘follow Jesus’ is also no trivial question. A life time is too short to fully grasp either one, yet as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-13,

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 

That God works in us is nothing other than grace, grace that makes it possible to take up our cross and follow Christ. What that means is something we work out daily in our lives. That is the Christian life.

One of the ways we figure this out daily is by spending time reading the Bible and meditating upon it. Reading the Bible, a relatively modern benefit of the printing press and literacy, is an important way of growing in knowledge and being shaped by God, but we are not “right with God” because we spend time in the Bible. We are right with God because God made it possible through Jesus Christ to be right with God the Father.

Likewise, doing our best to live in right relationship with other people is not living for Christ. On the contrary, it is because we are in Christ, with our warts, thorns and relational thistles, that we have any hope of living at peace with one another. Yes, as we become more Christ like, we will become easier to love. Perhaps more importantly, we will find it easier to love those who are the hardest to love.

When Jesus took up His cross, He demonstrated His love for those who were hard to love. Jesus did not need to do what He did, but His love for sinners was worth more than death on a cross.

When we take up our cross and follow Him, at least in part, it means that we love others, warts, thorns, thistles and all. Loving like that is impossible for us apart from the grace of Jesus Christ and the formative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So to return to our two opening statements, let me suggest another way of wording them. “By the grace of God we can spend time daily reading the Bible.” “By the grace of God we can walk by the Holy Spirit, growing in Christ-like love for one another.”

More importantly, “By the Grace and Mercy of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can take up our cross and follow Jesus.” That is the heart of the Christian life. That changes how we live.

The Color Harmony of Creation

I have wondered from time to time what life would have been like before Adam and Eve had knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 3:5  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The idea of “good” vs. “evil” requires a dualism, the belief in two opposing principles. It seems at times that one does not have to look far to see vestiges of this assumed dualism in nature. We live in a world of opposites…or do we?

Consider the colors red and green. They are opposites on the color wheel, red being on of the three primary colors and green being a mix of the yellow and blue, the other primaries. The artist, however does not think of red and green as opposites, rather they are considered complements. Place complementary colors next to each other and they stand out. They complement each other. They are unique since the perfect complement of red will have no red in it. Interestingly, if you mix perfect complements, the vibrant colors are reduced to gray, even black.

Male and female complement each other because they are different, but one is not lesser. They are not opposites, rather complementary varieties of the same thing. Colors of humanity if you will.  We could speak of the weather in a similar way. Rain and sun complement each other, sustaining life. All of one or all of the other is devastating. Even as a tulip bulb needs the cold before it will grow in the spring, but it needs warmth to grow. Summer and winter complement each other, sustaining life through the seasons. This is the harmony of creation.

Speaking of creation, the book of Genesis tell us, “And God saw that it is good.”  Creation is good.

If creation is good, what is evil? Allow me to suggest an artistic metaphor. When that which is complementary is mixed together, it looses vibrancy. A new thing has not been created. The rich harmony has merely been reduced to a colorless mess.

The presumption of evil is the judgement that what God has created in perfect harmony is not good. Evil is to presume to judge God. Who are we to judge our creator? Who are we to presume to know what is good and what is evil…as if such a thing intrinsically exists. We can only truly know good, for that is all that God created, but it is only in creation as God intended that we can know it.

The problem, however is that we have messed with the color harmony of creation. It is only by scraping off the palette and loading on fresh paint that the vibrancy of creation can be restored. This is the reconciling work of Jesus Christ. This is redemption. This is the new creation.