Why Ask? Part Two

In the previous article, I proposed that when we ask the right questions in the right way, we mirror God’s relational attributes (compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness). Loving God and each other is the foundation of the church.

In the pages of Holy Scripture, we are constantly confronted with dialogue that consists of asking and answering questions. Some questions are rhetorical. The question itself provides the answer. Some questions are meant to mislead. For example, the very first question is posed by a strange serpent-like creature: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). The serpent intends to deceive in stark contrast to the One who aims to protect. A few verses later, God asks “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:18). In this question, we discover God cares about us. Love is a choice God gives humankind. The more we practice loving others, the more we show others the true character of God.

People ask questions for different reasons. In High School, one of my friends asked me questions all the time. I assumed she wanted to know what I thought. Then I realized she asked questions first so I would not be able to ask questions of her. She thought if I really knew her, I would not like her. As we got older, she began to trust me with answers. At work, a colleague asked questions for the purpose of creating a culture of distrust. Neither of these methods reflect the love of God.

Many do not ask questions. Do we not ask questions because we don’t care or because we don’t know how? Do we not ask because we do not want to make others feel uncomfortable or because asking makes us feel uncomfortable?

As Christians, we are asked to follow the command of Jesus Christ to love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37). The first part God gave to Moses to give to his people as they wandered in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 6:5). The second part God gave to Moses to give to his people before settling in the Promised Land (Leviticus 18:19). Love is not limited by time or place.

Christianity is different from all other religions because Christians believe God desires a personal relationship with all people. God cares for us and wants us to care for each other. Our motivation to ask caring questions should stem from a desire to honor God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God he Father through him (Colossians 3:12).

The recent article, “Five Questions You Can Ask Instead of ‘How Are You?’” intrigued me. What did the corporate world advise their people to do and why?

“Last week, we introduced a series of posts that will offer ideas for how to build energy, shape the future, and create high-performing teams.”

Does your church use this kind of language? Is their motivation born of love? Does your church have your best interest at heart? Today many leaders are focusing on the success of their church which does not honor God.

In the previous post by Forbes, we read: “Those two behaviors (asking questions and being more positive than negative) drive high performing teams. They affirm team members’ contributions, make knowledge sharing possible, build strong relational connections, and ultimately generate performance success.” Churches certainly want to do the same though not for the same reason and not for the same outcome.

They state that in these (success driven) teams, three principles are at play:

1. Positive questions promote learning and engagement. Questions invite others to participate, share their thoughts and contribute their solutions. Caution: in order for your questions to generate engagement and action, they need to be genuine attempts to learn and search for new possibilities. Questions with pre-determine answers or questions designed to show up your colleagues will generate resistance and resentment.

2. Positive questions shape the future.

3. Positive questions inspire energy and action. Positive questions lead to positive images which lead to positive action. Note: These principles are adapted from the Appreciative Inquiry process.

We certainly should frame our questions in a positive way. Asking “How are you?” or “How has God been good to you?” is better than asking, “Are you still feeling badly?” Even the tone we use matters. Our tone should match our concern.

Most of us learned to ask questions from our parents: “How are you feeling?” “What are you doing?” “How was school today?” “What did you learn?” “Did you clean your room?” “Did you do your homework?” Their questions spurred us to think about what we are doing or remind us to do what we were supposed to do. Hopefully you knew your parents asked because they loved you.

Like most teenagers, sometimes we resent questions. Teenagers view questions as an intrusion into their privacy or as a way to make them do something they do not want to do like clean their room. Adults resent questions for the same reason.

Teenagers ask “Why” to show their independence. Young children ask “Why?” because they are naturally inquisitive. “Are we there yet?” is a question asked by those who have not developed a sense of time. We show this same independent spirit and impatience when God does not answer our prayers right away.

Learning to ask positive questions to motivate ourselves and others can be intimidating. Learning how to love others when we barely love ourselves is daunting. Today’s culture streamline advertisements to appeal to our selfishness. Yet, selfishness is the opposite of love. Jesus said the greatest love is giving up our life for another (John 15:13). Sometimes we find it difficult to give up even a moment of our time but love is worth the try.

How do we frame questions to show we care? Framing a question is not easy. Though I try to form appropriate questions in my relationship with my husband, my children, and my friends, I am not always successful. Love sometimes means being willing to be misunderstood. Love is worth the try.

The writer of the article in Forbes wondered why we invariably ask, “How are you?” when we really do not want to know. We expect the answer along with the same question which we reply in similar fashion: “Fine.” In our culture, this is a greeting. We would be surprised if the other person answered honestly: “I just found out I have cancer” or “I had a fight with my wife.” In fact, if a person answered in a different way,  many would turn away. Only someone who truly cares would stay and listen. Love is worth the try.

In the Forbes article, corporate suggested their teams ask these five questions:
1. What was the best part about your day?
2. What work is most exciting you this week?
3. What new ideas are giving you energy today?
4. Tell me one thing you learned today that really inspired you (not a question)
5. What is one thing we could do right now to make this (day, project, or event) even better?

How do you feel about these questions? How would you feel about the person who asked them? Do these questions encourage a loving relationship? Try forming five questions a Christian should ask another Christian, an additional five to ask a visitor, and five to ask an unbeliever. Love is worth the try.

Next time, I will dissect these five questions suggested by Forbes and suggest ways of asking questions motivated by the love of God: Why Ask? Part Three



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