Of all Rudyard Kipling’s six best friends, I think Why is my favourite. Why is a question that leads to understanding – not just facts, but heart. Kiplings other five friends: Who; What; When; Where; and, How; are really mere lieutenants to their chief, Why. Most of you are probably already acquainted with Why but I want to help you to get better acquainted with this master of the interrogatives – especially those of us who want to change the world!
“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2:7
Why leads to discovery and enlightenment. In Mark’s Gospel, he records the Jewish scribes asking themselves “in their hearts” why Jesus dared speak with divine authority. Their question is squarely answered when Jesus “perceiving in His spirit that they thus questioned within themselves" trumped their why with His own. “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins — He said to the paralytic — ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’ And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, We never saw anything like this!”
I guess that these scribes would have been stunned that Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking—and then openly answered their whyquestion with a declaration even more stunning – He was the divine Son of God whom Daniel referred to as the Son of Man!
¶ “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14
But this brief exchange is extremely telling. Why? Because it reveals that Jesus welcomes people’s why questions. And so should we. In fact, the New Testament encourages us to be ready to answer people’s why questions with thoughtful, reasonable, and considerate answers.
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, First Peter 3:15
When we are asked why we think there are good reasons to believe in the God of the Bible, we can share these reasons with them (Rom. 1:19-20). When we are asked why we think the Bible is God’s Word, we can share these reasons with people who have probably never heard them before (2Tim. 3:16-17). When we are asked why we think that Christianity is the only true revelation from God about how to be reconciled with God, we can share these reasons (Acts 4:12). When we are asked why a Christian needs to be committed to a local church, we can share these reasons (Heb. 10:25). When we are asked why sex is sacred and not to be trifled with, we can give the reasons (Heb. 13:4). And so on. But not all of our answers are necessarily grounded in the Bible – because the Bible itself instructs us to use wisdom to make the necessary decisions to advance the Gospel and shepherd God’s people (James 1:5). This is why we welcome why questions about the reasons for our insistence on certain standards and ways of doing things. It’s why we welcome people’s whys about how we help people to grow and to flourish into the roles God has destined for them to fulfil. When someone asks why we believe certain things, we relish the opportunity to answer. And beyond our church, I hope we create a culture of asking why when it comes to the decisions or opinions those in our community hold. All too often our community is impressed by Who says something (like, “Professor Expert says Christianity’s view about sex is outdated and wrong!”) without realising they should be asking Why instead of Who (like, “Why does Professor Expert say that Christianity’s view about sex is outdated and wrong?”).
And Jesus said to Him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:18
All too often critics of Christianity are given a free pass when it comes to their negative opinions about Jesus, God, and Christianity. Why cancels that free pass – but it doesn’t do it in an aggressive way – it can actually be an act of great care and concern that may well help someone to realise that they don’t have a very good why for holding their opinion. A question like, “Why do you think that?” or “Why did you come to that conclusion?” might well end up being the stone in someone’s shoe that causes them to look for a better why.
There are, of course, some why questions we cannot answer because we aren’t qualified to answer them. I thinking in particular about why God might have done this but not that. I can speculate but I’m not qualified to answer these type of why questions – only God is. These questions are best directed to God Himself; but, as Job discovered, God doesn’t always feel the need to answer our why questions about His ways in our life, and thus, like Job, we are left to bend our knees and raise our hands to heaven in surrender and worship instead. And in the meantime, we can rightfully ask our fellow man why they believe what they believe and be ready for when they do the same to us.
And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John 6:65
In fact, if you want to join with me in our campaign to change the world – starting right here in Legana – then I invite you to get better acquainted with our new best friend, why. Why, who knows what God might in and through each one of working together to the glory of God in the mission to see people come to know and grow in Christ?