Have you ever had a questions that nobody could answer or you felt was not answered well? Have you ever felt that you could not ask a question because you were fearful of people questioning who you are or what you believe? What about a question that was counter to the majority’s view and could even seem heretical to some? I think we all have even if we want to admit it or not.
I have had the fortunate opportunity to lead a small group over the last year, and a few weeks ago we started a new study on the book of James. A, “how-to” letter from the brother of Jesus to the Jewish Christians who had been spread throughout the world, suffering oppression and despised by many. James wrote this letter to encourage and provide guidance to this group and to answer questions about how to respond to temptation, doubt and related concerns.
These same issues that James addressed about 1,960ish years ago are still relevant today. We face temptations, need wisdom and have questions about our faith and even doubt our faith. So the letter written by James can be just as useful to us as it was for the people James was addressing. We have had some great discussions in our group during the past couple of weeks and I have noticed recently as we have dived deeper into James, the questions are getting deeper. It seems a level of trust has grown within the group that has allowed all of us to ask questions that would not typically come out in many conversations. Questions about faith and doubt and even encounters between Jesus and Satan. Some questions are answered quickly and with little discussion but others stump the group and require us to really work through a question and realize that maybe it is not answerable in our current context.
This is significant, not because answers go unanswered or they are “deep” theological questions. The significance is that the members of the group feel that they can explore their faith and their doubts in a safe place where no judgement is made. ere is nothing wrong with having questions or even doubts. It would be weird if we go throughout life without asking questions or having doubt along the way. Life is complex and the Bible is a guide, but in order to use this guide in the way it was intended to be used we should feel free to ask questions and express doubts.
Many believe we are living in a time that is comparable to when the emperor Constantine issued the edict of Milan in 1313 allowing for the toleration of Christianity, the creation of the Gutenberg Printing Press and the Reformation. Huge transitions in Christianity! When we are given the responsibility of living in such a transitional time, we are required to ask questions and explore our faith. To not take the pat answers and traditions but to explore them and possibly alter based on our current time and context. We know through the ministry of Jesus that questions were allowed and the letter from James allows us to explore our questions in our time. I encourage you to create a safe place for you as well as for others to ask the tough questions.