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Monday, June 18, 2007

Don't Forget the "Why"

I've always been taught to do what Jesus would do. So much so, that the question of "what" Jesus would do completely eclipsed the concept of "why." Jesus was selfless and always put other people's needs before His own. He spent time in public with people who were known as sinners and drunks. Jesus kept the law, turned the other cheek, and kicked the capitalists out of the temple. Why did He do these things?

"What?" is the question of the obedient. "What do you want me to do?" "What is right?" "What does the Bible say?" It is vital that we know the "what," but for the past couple of years, it's the "why" that's haunted me.

"Why?" is the rebel's question. It implies conditional obedience pending personal approval. That's why frustrated parents answer "why?" with "Because I said so!" Leaders answer it with "Because I'm the boss." People who are interested in maintaining the status quo consider "why?" to be disrespectful and insubordinate.

"Why?" threatens the authority of a leader (especially if he doesn't know the answer!) Addressing it can be difficult, time-consuming, and can reveal shortcomings and inconsistencies. Nevertheless, "why?" is a question we should be asking, because the power is in the "why."

Asking why is how we come to know God in a personal way. We don't really know Him until we begin to understand why He does what He does.

Once we start asking "why," we shouldn't ever stop. Too often, we settle on a reason or explanation and never revisit the question. We accept a logical and well-presented argument and move on. This is why people in the pew believe that we should do missions will bring Jesus back and why people on the field buy into the lie that anyone's eternity depends on missionaries. Questioning "why" protects us from legalism, complacency, and meaningless tradition.

Why not ask "why?"


Watchman said...

I am continually recovering from being raised in a why-less world. I recall even being told by spiritual leaders that why is never a good question to ask, because you'll never know the answer. The better way, to them, was to basically suck it up and move forward. "God don't need to tell you why, son, and you don't need to know. All you need to do is obey."

Consider how far in life we would go without the why askers? Would we have cured so many diseases without asking why? Would we have made the discoveries in science and medicine without inquisitive minds asking why cancer can't be beat?

Rebels or not, if they ask why, I'll take them on my team. Give me spirited folk instead of yes men. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has for sure saved my faith from extinction.

Publius said...

Whom are you asking "why?" Your leadership structure? Team members? God? Yourself?

At the same time, there's two kinds of "why." There's the 'why' that means, "Help me understand the context of your instruction, so I can use my own reason and experience to help the process and maybe learn how to do it myself."

But there's also the 'why' that means, "I don't want to submit to your authority, and you're going to have to convince me to do what you want."

Which 'why' do you mean? And which one do they hear?

Bryan Riley said...

So many just overlook the Old Testament because they feel like it is clear they need not worry about rules about sacrificing animals and dietary laws and the like, but if they stopped and asked "why" about the entirety of the Old Testament it would open up their understanding of Who God Is so much more. And, of course, that would also help greatly with a lot of really bad legalistic approaches to much of the NT too.

Great Post!

Strider said...

'You search the scriptures and they speak of me...' This verse often runs in my head when I consider the number of intelligent 'obedient' people who did the 'what' without question but never understood who they were dealing with. God is not impersonal. He is not like us and he is Holy and wholly other than us but he is not inaccessible. He has come to us so we would understand the 'why' and be changed by it. We must not ask 'why' defiantly for that would reveal our hearts but not our Father's. When we ask why sincerely, with the passionate curiousity of a lover who wants to know everything about the beloved then we are on the right track.
Thanks for this good post. I look forward to the other commenters who will misunderstand you on this. It will be fun to read.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I don't think I'm a commentator who misunderstands but I do say Amen to this and so many other posts. Stepchild I missed your posting. I love the honesty and glad you are back at it. You bring challenges and perspective that is greatly needed.

bj said...

I agree with Publius. Can you comment on that?
Also, I am curious about this sentence: "This is why people in the pew believe that we should do missions will bring Jesus back and why people on the field buy into the lie that anyone's eternity depends on missionaries."
Could you please explain further what you mean by this?

stepchild said...

I guess I'm saying that we should ask "Why" of everyone (including God.)

I see what you mean about the kinds of why. Now that I think about it, there are probably several kinds of "why." In addition to the ones you mention, there's the "Patronizing Why" that you ask publicly even though you know the answer just to prove a point. The there are the "Rhetorical Why," and the "Feigning Interest Why." My personal favorite has always been the "I'm Only Asking So I Can Tell You Why."

Seriously, you bring up a good point. Whenever we ask "why," some people hear it as the first kind (challenging) and others hear it as the second kind (ernestly searching). I think that the question is always a good one, no matter the asker's intention. It isn't right to discount a valid question (or even some invalid ones) simply because we don't like the motives or agenda of the asker. We don't get a pass from healthy evaluation and accountability simply because we can discredit the critic.

As for me, I'm asking "why" of everyone- God, the church, my leadership, anyone who reads this blog.

My reasons for asking vary from day to day. Sometimes, I ask out of genuine interest. Other times I'm trying to make a point. Today, though, I'm in more of a "Why are you asking why I'm asking why?" sort of mood.

Publius said...



cafeaddict said...

i have been computerless for a few days so i just had a chance to read your post. interestingly enough, it came on a day when i had just written in my journal something very much along these lines. i was asking God if i was asking too many questions. i feel like i am in a stage of my journey with God where i am bringing everything into question: things i learned at church, reasons why we do and don't do things, the theology behind our actions, and the "style" of how we do everything from liturgy to missions. most of the time, i think it is good to question stuff, to deconstruct as many would say in today's lingo. we need to know why we are doing what we are doing. we need to ask if the why is still relevant. we need to make sure that we are being obedient to God and not merely to tradition. in these instances, the questioning is good.

i guess where i got a little stuck was when i asked myself if i was questioning stuff just to avoid being obedient to it. am i tossing out stuff that i should be keeping just for the sake of doing something different? is there such a thing as a "tried and true" methodology? do i avoid being more confrontational, evangelistically speaking just because it makes me uncomfortable? are my thoughts on track or have i been influenced so much by the secular culture in which i live that i can no longer see clearly? can we ask "why" too much? is there a place for simple, child-like faith that doesn't ask why? if so, when?

if you think those questions were random, you should see my journal! i am often mentally exhausted.

glad to know someone else is asking lots of questions too. i guess if my children are a true reflection of the way God made us, then we were definitely meant to ask why.