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SOUDER: So many questions, so little time

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Some of them have clear answers and some don't.

By Chuck Souder

It may come as a surprise to some, but sometimes when I have periods of uninterrupted time – like on a long car trip, or lying in bed before falling asleep at night – I think about life’s big questions.

You know, questions like, when a cow laughs, does milk come out his nose? Or why does sour cream have an expiration date? And why do feet smell, but noses run?

Perhaps you’ve thought of other head-scratchers, like, if you choke a Smurf, what color does he turn? Or what was the best thing before sliced bread? Inquiring minds want to know.

I don’t know about you, but unlike the confident “You’ve Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers” people at Radio Shack, sometimes it seems like I have more questions than answers. And my experience tells me I’m not alone.

When they are on long car trips, my kids sometimes amuse themselves (and occasionally learn something) from David Feldman’s book Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise? Besides the title question, the author addresses 238 other “imponderables,” including: If nothing sticks to Teflon, how does Teflon stick to the pan? (Hmm…)

And why don’t people get goosebumps on their faces? (Never thought of that, did you?) Or this: What is the difference between a “kit” and a “caboodle?” (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

Other questions in the book are: Why do golfers yell “fore!” when warning of an errant shot? (I use the word often, but didn’t know why. Do you?) Why are there 18 holes on a golf course? (Maybe because that’s all the torture most people can stand?)

Why does the price of gas end in nine-tenths of a cent? (So, if you bought exactly one gallon and paid in cash, how would they make change?) Why is yawning contagious? (Some of you yawned just from thinking about it.)

Then there is my personal favorite: Why do hot dogs come in packages of 10 and hot-dog buns come in packages of eight? Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t asked that one.

Television and movies have provided their own big questions over the years. In the 1980s, “Who shot JR?” was near the top of the list. About that same time, but somewhat less famously, the big screen asked, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

Another question only some of you may remember is “Hey grandpa, what’s for supper?” (of Hee Haw fame), but more will remember Bugs Bunny’s famous “eh...what’s up, doc?”

From Shakespeare come these well-known queries: “To be or not to be?” (from Hamlet) and “Et tu, Brute?” (from Julius Caesar). Though many people are familiar with these questions, my guess is that fewer know what they mean.

It was the French philosopher Voltaire who said that we should “judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers.” Well, if that’s the case, I’d better begin to raise the level of my queries.

Many world-changing discoveries began with questions that started out “what if…?” For example, in the 1400s someone thought to ask, “What if we kept sailing westward from Europe? Would we reach India sooner?” In the 1700s, it was, “What if we heated water and used the steam to power machines?”

In the late 1800s, this question was asked, “What if we created rays of light that could shine through the human body and reveal its interior?”

More recently, enterprising men like Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs asked, “What if every household could afford its own personal computer?” Each of these questions and many others like them, have altered the course of history.

Pastor and leadership expert Andy Stanley says that some of the most thought-provoking questions you or your organization could ask begin this way: “What is the best way to…?”

Questions that start that way help people challenge the status quo and think of new and better ways to accomplish their goals.

A couple of oft-raised questions aren’t really as perplexing as they may first seem. Questions like, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” and “Where did Cain get his wife?” can be answered rather easily from the very first pages of the Bible.

Diving even deeper, Chuck Colson, among others, said there were four questions that everyone had to deal with at some point in their life. Four questions that every system of looking at the world had to answer.

These were questions of origin (where did we come from?), evil (what went wrong with the world?), redemption (how do we fix it?), and purpose (what is the meaning of life?). These are serious questions that no thinking person should ignore.

Of course, some of the questions I’ve posed above are just silly. Others, however, may be questions that you want to spend some time wrestling with. And while some of the questions I’ve mentioned here may well be worth your time, I’d like to suggest that the most important question that anyone could answer is this: “Who do you say that I am?”

At first glance, that question doesn’t seem to rise to the level of “most important,” and I’ll admit that a question like that is only as important as the person asking it. But that is precisely why I think it to be the most important question everyone must answer.

You see, that question was posed by none other than Jesus. Some 2000 years ago, he asked it to his closest friends; and one of them, named Peter, responded with what Jesus himself said was an answer sent straight from heaven: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

So what about it? How would you answer the question? Who is Jesus? Very few people, even atheists, would answer the question disparagingly. Nearly everyone, it seems, religious or not, has a favorable opinion of Jesus.

So what’s your answer? Was Jesus simply a good man? A great teacher? A prophet? Does it even matter? Considering the remarkable claims that Jesus made about himself, I’d say it makes a great deal of difference.

In one of the most insightful Christian books ever written, Mere Christianity, the great English professor, theologian, and writer C.S. Lewis, summed up the possible answers to the question this way:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he’s a poached egg – or else he would the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Perhaps on your next long drive, or when you’re lying awake in bed sometime, you can consider your response to his question.

In the meantime, I was wondering: If it’s true that a buttered piece of bread always lands butter-side down, and that a cat always lands on his feet, what would happen if you tied a piece of buttered bread to the back of a cat and dropped it? I wonder.

 

Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org. Find other columns by Souder at www.SentinelNews.com/columns.