Ravi was one of those rare individuals who had a way of addressing complex topics, and defusing the tension with a well-placed story. His humor and wit were extraordinary. He had this uncanny way of making even those who disagreed with him still appreciate his perspective.
There are dozens of lessons I learned from Ravi, too many to list in one post. But one stands out above the rest. A simple statement that he modeled to near perfection: “Behind every question is a questioner.”
In a world of theorizing and news outlets pitting one group against another, Ravi showed time after time the power of listening to a person, valuing them, and then responding with a firm answer. It’s precisely the opposite of what we are accustomed to seeing. Just watch a major network debate for goodness sake. It’s ten minutes of “you get 30 seconds to answer this question or you get cut off,” personalizing and attacking the individual, and in the end providing water-down arguments that appear more emotional than logical.
Ravi never backed away from tough questions? “Aren’t Christians just a bunch of hypocrites?” “Aren’t Christians bigoted and homophobic?” “Don’t all religions say the same thing?” “Isn’t the Bible just a collection of antiquated writings that couldn’t possibly have any relevance today?” “Hasn’t science disproven the existence of God?” The list goes on.
The average Christian receiving these questions would be prone to get defensive. Ravi rarely ever did. This speaks to his level of preparation and dedication to mastering his field, and more importantly his total confidence in his message. He believed what he said, and this is a fact even his opponents respected.
It’s easy to focus solely on the question. Over the years I’ve had hours lengthy conversations with skeptics on a myriad of topics. It’s tough to not take what they say personally. But I keep coming back to that line, “Question and questioner.”
When we focus solely on answering a question, it’s possible to win the fight and lose the war. It’s possible to bury our opponents with knowledge, but lose them as friends.
This is probably the greatest issue I have with much of the dialogue we see on social media. It can become too much about sharing an article or video that will change our friend’s minds than it is about having authentic love for the people who see what we post. Culture trains us to win battles. But our real focus should be the war.
Reading the gospels through this light, we cannot help but notice how often Jesus did this with people who came to question him – both skeptics and honest seekers of truth. He was not as focused on their individual questions as he was on their enteral souls.
Just this week I had the opportunity to share with a group of people the story of the Good Samaritan and how this story is actually more about salvation than it is about doing good deeds. Several people in the group were asking questions, when the lady to my right happened to remark: “I’m not a Christian, but maybe one day.” That made me pause. We weren’t just a handful of people in a room discussing a topic. It suddenly became about something much more.
The question and the questioner.
It’s moments like this that remind me of the power of leaning on the Holy Spirit for guidance. No amount of mere explanation on our part can ever change someone. Christians should not be in the business of “changing people’s minds.” We should instead be focused on intimacy with Christ that results in an authentic display of love for others. Sometimes this love calls us to speak the truth boldly. Other times it calls us to sit in silence and listen.
When we make telling others about Jesus all about us, we have taken on a burden we were never intended to carry. But when we focus on the questioner and loving them in the best way we know how, that is when true Christian living moves from being just a title we carry to a lifestyle we live.