When Not to Answer Difficult Questions

Have you ever been asked a difficult question and weren’t sure how to answer? Should you walk away or should you wade in?

Being a pastor I find that I get asked a lot of difficult questions. Some questions are heart-breaking like, “Will I go to hell for being divorced?” (In case you’re wondering…No.)

Other questions are of a more historical or cultural nature about something they read in the Bible. Then there are more difficult ones like… “Why did God allow _____ to happen?”

The church that I have the privilege of pastoring has many people who are new to faith. I love it! These new Christians ask me still another type of question. Their questions come because culture isn’t nurturing to their new faith. Instead culture seems determined to stamp it out with questions. Someone will ask this person with new faith a “question” which eventually finds its way back to me.

It usually starts with, “What do you say to someone who says…”
…the Bible was written by people so you can’t trust it
…God hates gay people
…I can’t believe a loving God would ________

I think people confuse me with an arsenal. It feels at times people are looking for ammunition to defend their newly found faith. They want a sound bite to fire back at the cynic.

My answer to “What do you say to someone who says…” is always, “It depends.”

Are you being asked this question because someone wants to have a sincere conversation about faith or because they are trying to shut the conversation down?

If the question was asked to shut the conversation down you’re wasting your time. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your answer is. Their mind is already made up and you won’t find a silver bullet that will change it.

You are wasting your energy and maybe even hurting your relationship trying to argue with someone who has closed their mind. It’s kind of like giving your grandmother’s pearls to the pigs. They have no use for something so valuable (Matt. 7:6).

Faith isn’t just a rational proposition.

Sure, faith is supported by history, archeology, and philosophy, but it’s more than just logic. We are to love God with more than just our mind. We are to also love him with our heart and soul. Often someone’s wounded heart is what’s keeping their mind closed to faith.

Before we seek to respond we should first ask ourselves if we are being asked a question or being questioned. A wise person can tell the difference. If you are being asked a sincere question from someone who is exploring faith but they are getting hung up because of a few strange passages then there are answers worth talking about.

But if you are being questioned it’s best to respond as Jesus often did and say nothing. Jesus remained silent not because he didn’t know the answer, but because he knew they really didn’t care about the answer.

The next time you find yourself wondering, “What do I say to someone who says…” Ask yourself another question, “Am I being asked a question or being questioned?” The answer to that question determines whether you should walk away and preserve the relationship, or wade in and help someone on their faith journey.