Sometimes I’ll pipe up in a conversation with my opinion. “Oh, you don’t want to live in Newport. It’s a terrible side of town” or “I’d never vote for that candidate. He’s awful!”
Just then, when I’m listening, I’ll hear a quiet little voice in my head say, “Hey.” And I know I’m in for it.
“How do you know that about Newport, Sarah? Did you do research on crime stats? Did you tune into the police band? Did you recently get robbed on your way to Over the Rhine?”
No. I admit sheepishly. I just heard someone talking about it one time.
“Then perhaps,” myself says to me, “it would be best to not say something so adamantly without support. Or better to not say anything at all.”
It stings to be scolded by yourself. Since you knew better, you really should have known better.
I guess I just don’t trust what I have to say because my internal suspicion police has been heightened by our society.
Beyond fake news and biased reporting, beyond slander and unsupported claims, there’s a heavy spirit of untruth in the memes, messages, and statuses that float around social media and our conversations in general. I’ve grown distrustful of what I read and hear, even things coming from my Christian friends or evangelical sources, until I’ve sifted their message through the sieve of Scripture to see what comes out the other side.
I’m surprised, sometimes, at how few people seem eager to ask questions. We’re quick to agree or disagree with opinions or beliefs but not quick to see the other perspective or search for deeper truth. We rarely ask, “Why?” or “What do you mean?” or “Why do you say that?”
I noticed this recently after reading Little Women when I mentioned on Facebook that I wasn’t a fan of Professor Baer. Several people agreed. Several disagreed and told me I was wrong. No one bothered to ask me why I didn’t like the guy.
I could have told them that my fear of marrying a man like Baer went back to my childhood, since the first time I saw the old June Allyson version of the movie. But since no one asked, I didn’t feel the need to explain my psychological phobias. So I just separated my friends into Team Baer and Team Laurie and moved on. To be honest, I’m not sure that I asked them “why” of their opinion either.
Questions feel impertinent and self-righteous sometimes. And worse—many people who do ask questions are merely dropping bait. Who wants to be accused of being an angler for confrontation?
We live in a world of statements and conclusions. Questions seem a symptom of weakness, the stuff of fence-straddlers and wanderers who haven’t chosen a side. In fact, we’ve been conditioned to believe that questions are evil and have been evil since the genesis of the world.
Behind the world’s suffering, death, and longing, we sometimes say there was one insidious question: “Did God really say?”
But really the fall of humankind came down to a faulty answer. Eve bit Satan’s bait because she offered an answer that she must not have fully believed or perhaps did not fully understand. And instead of asking questions to get to the bottom of it (“What the heck are you doing questioning God, serpent?” “Where did you come from?” “God, is this true?”), she made a tragic choice to believe the wrong voice and, well, here we are.
Like Eve, in what ways might we fall if we don’t fully trust our answers or, worse, if we have the wrong answers? I Peter 3:15 admonishes, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
Is our truth about the gospel and apologetic topics a script that we repeat without comprehending its meaning or strength? Is it hearsay from a pastor in a pulpit or a podcast? Would it hold up against derisive or even genuine questions? Part of being prepared with our answers is seeking out the truth, not in a spirit of suspicion or doubt but intentional study. Only when we’re sure of the truth can we share the truth effectively.
We need to surround ourselves with friends who will ask us to explain our opinions, viewpoints, or answers, and help us find our way to the truth. We need to listen to voices that prod us to a deeper inspection of our beliefs. Even if it’s just the little voice inside our head.
Like Eve, in what ways might we fall if we aren’t sure of our answers?