Friday, January 04, 2008
Scary questions and frightening answers
I have to admit that I like Quentin Tarantino movies. They are quirky and they make me think. In the film Pulp Fiction the dialogue between Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) is interesting. There is one point in the film where the following exchange occurs. Vincent says something to the effect "You are scaring me Jules." Jules responds,
"If my answers frighten you Vincent, then you should cease asking scary questions."
That is the problem often, isn't it. We don't ask the hard, the scary questions because the answers will frighten us. You know I also think we have actually gotten to the point as a church where we have stopped asking some of the scary questions, perhaps because we have a good idea of what the answers would be.
Should my church make room for people with mental illness?
Should the Sunday school include children with autism?
Are worship services too knowledge oriented?
Do we love our neighbor as Jesus would have us love our neighbor?
The rich young ruler asked Jesus a question, for example, and he got a frightening answer. He didn't realize that his question was scary but it sure was. "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" I think he expected Jesus to say, "You know you are doing great. Just keep on doing what you are doing." But Jesus didn't say that. He said, "You lack one thing: go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor." Jesus' answer made the young man's question become a very scary question. It demanded him to change, to eschew his comforts, to step out in faith, to do something he had never done before, to take his commitment to God seriously. You see if we ask the right questions, we may get frightening answers, but it they are from God, they are the best answers, the answers that will guide us to growth in our faith and in our likeness of Jesus.
But we first need to ask the questions and the questions are very basic, very very basic to what the Christian life is all about. Imagine asking questions like,
"Good teacher, should there be a place for everyone in the church, be they mentally ill, or physically disabled, or emotionally disturbed or mentally handicapped, or profoundly disabled, or are there some people who by their nature can be excluded from the church?"
"Jesus, am I loving my neighbor as a church if I pick and choose those in the community whom I will care about, particularly if I don't choose those who have been devalued, or are disabled, or are disenfranchised?"
"Lord, if the way we do church from Sunday School to worship service, to social gatherings, to small group Bible studies are exclusive of particular people, are those programs worth retaining in their current form or should the be scrapped in their entirety and reimagined with say, disabled people being present in mind?"
"Good teacher, if people with disabilities do not fit within the current structures of the church, should we exclude the people or change the structures?"
I suspect Jesus would look on us with love as he did to the man in the story because, hopefully we are asking out of a desire to be obedient. But I suspect his answers would rock our world.
But we must continue to ask these scary questions even though the answers truly do frighten me as well. As God reveals the answers to these questions to me, I pray that I will not "be shocked and go away grieving" because I was unprepared and unwilling to act in obedience to what I was told. I am asking the questions and I am beginning to understand some of the answers as they are revealed to me. May God give me, give us all the faith to do what we should do in spite of how the requisite changes will shock us and show us our disobedience.