In an earlier phase of my career, as I was supporting the front-line technical sales team, I learned that sometimes it was best to address the underlying problem being faced by a customer, even if that didn’t exactly match what I had been asked to do. I was responsible for completing tasks as requested, but the more that I could learn about the context of the request, the better solution I could provide. An answer of “42.16 inch-pounds” might have fulfilled the stated request (unless the results needed to be in metric!); however, if I learned that the customer needed a larger solution for a specific situation, I might have still run the requested computation, but also offered several other designs for consideration (i.e., other options that might work even better).
In one of my favorite stories from the Gospels, a man that Jesus had healed was answering questions (from some people who really didn’t want to give Jesus any credit or support).
He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?”
John 9:27 NASB
Here, the healed man’s interrogators (although, in fairness, not all of them were necessarily antagonistic; I think that some may have been genuine in their cross-examination) were falling into a common trap: their “questions” weren’t really meant to obtain answers. Instead, those who had already made up their mind were fishing for ammunition to fuel their opposition to Jesus.
On the surface, these weren’t inherently bad questions (read all of John 9 for the bigger picture), but the answers didn’t really get Jesus’ accusers any closer to their pre-determined goal, nor to the question that they actually should have asked. The important question was the one that the man who had been given sight (perhaps in both body and soul?) asked in return: Did they want to follow Jesus?
After all, the miracles that Jesus performed gave credibility to His words, and His teachings complemented – rather than contradicted – the original commandments that God had given to the Jewish people through Moses. How (and on what day of the week) Jesus healed this man were questions that weren’t nearly as important, compared to whether or not those around Him – people who saw and heard about this event – decided to take steps in their own lives, based on who Jesus proved to be.
I don’t think that Jesus came to this earth to have us debate whether or not His miracles used divine medical knowledge or were purely supernatural. I don’t think that His goal for us was to argue over subtle doctrinal points to the exclusion of perfectly clear messages in His teaching. Jesus established that He was God the Son, and that He was the only way for us to get [back] to God the Father.
If I may be a little bold: If we do not accept Jesus’ offer of salvation, nothing else matters. In my opinion, debate over anything else is only valuable if, 1) it helps us verify the truth and accuracy of Jesus’ teachings, as recorded in the Bible (before we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord), or 2) it helps us grow to become more like Jesus, and live according to His commandments and example (after we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord). Arguing over any points that don’t accomplish one of these goals seems trivial, petty, and potentially even wasteful of our limited time here on this earth (see Ephesians 5:15-17, and Colossians 4:5-6).
In the second part of this article, let’s take a look at what is really important, compared to the trivia that so often consumes debates and disagreements today.