I have always been fascinated by the questions we ask and that are asked of us when we interact with the Lord through Scripture. In this I include both the big and small matters of our time, asked by people around us, as well as the way in which the Scriptures themselves act to challenge and transform us.
Perhaps this is why I have enjoyed an exercise recently undertaken by our friends at IFES East Asia. Through a series of videos, staff from different movements are exposed to a text of Scripture and invited to ask questions prompted by that text. I believe this helps us recognize an important point that we often overlook: when we come to the Scriptures, who we are and where we are impacts how we respond. In other words, context matters.
The circumstances in which we live, our background – even our age and gender – all play a part in how we read the Word of God. I think that being more attentive to this would help us to benefit more from the diversity of the community in which we study the Scriptures. This variety of perspectives and questions would help us be mindful and open to how the Holy Spirit speaks his Word.
Being attentive to these nuances can also encourage us to be more effective in our witness. I believe that religious people, whether they are long-time Christians or interested in spiritual matters, ask questions that are quite different from those asked by an atheist or agnostic. When I study the biblical text, for example, the questions I pose are unlikely to be the same as those asked by someone from another religious tradition or non-religious worldview. But I should not ignore them; neither should I try to answer them quickly, nor say that they are not asking the “right” question of the biblical text. Rather, it is legitimate and appropriate to listen carefully and seek to understand the questions they bring to the Scriptures.
Similarly, we must always pay attention when the Scriptures ask something of us – especially when such queries disturb, challenge, or bother us. It is the questions we take away from our reading of the Bible, and those for which we do not find an easy answer, that usually have the most transforming potential. They shake the foundations of what we take for granted, whether in our own opinion or from broader tradition. In doing so, they reveal more to us of God’s authoritative voice. And that voice, spoken through the Scriptures, is the One that provokes change. Questions bring forth life, and we should not be afraid of them.
Ricardo Borges, IFES Secretary for Scripture Engagement.