What is Your Opinion

The Power of a Question

What is your opinion?
Do you get asked that question a lot these days? If so, that is fantastic, but I find less and less people asking questions like that. (Sans customer questionnaires which are seemingly ubiquitous on customer receipts of purchase. In this article, I’m writing more with an eye to our personal interactions.)
With social media, blogs, and the ability to broadcast your opinion far and wide, it is so easy to offer one’s opinion that society seems to lack a preponderance of individuals interested in asking your opinion. It seems as if everybody wants to tell you their opinion but not vice versa.
I am sure that you have noted that Facebook and Twitter are filled with individuals who have self-appointed omniscience and are arbitrators of everything from “what patriotism really means” to “how smart you are based on your beverage choice.”
But the scriptures from this weekend’s readings present us with a different perspective. We believe that the only one who is truly all-knowing is God but it is worth noting how God’s wisdom is shared. It isn’t by God’s imposition but rather by God’s empowerment through the solicitation of our own ideas.
In the First Reading (Ez 18:25-28) from the prophet Ezekiel, the voice of God asks, “Is it my way that is unfair or rather, are not your ways unfair?” In the Gospel reading from Matthew (MT 21:28-32), Jesus starts off the reading by asking, “What is your opinion?”
To be certain, this weekend’s scriptures are full of wonderful insights about life. Saint Paul instructs us to “Be of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory… etc” (Phil 1”1-11). The prophet Ezekiel says “If someone turns from the wickedness he has committed, if he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” There are literally hundreds of positive applications to the admonitions presented in the scriptures this week, but one stands out with a daunting boldness that it deserves our greater consideration. What does it look like when the one who has all authority to answer all questions instead asks a question?
What I take from this is the instructional quality of the act of asking. God, the all-powerful and all-knowing enters into a suspended space of unknowing and humility before us. Even as God knows what is ultimately true and just, God pauses to engage us in a conversation. God’s activity is that of inquiry before his creation. God honors subjectivity and freedom. What then does that say about the proper stewardship of our own righteousness? I think something radically different than common perceptions about power and authority.
What if we followed God’s example in our daily life? What if we made a practice of suspending our own self-righteousness to seek out the opinions of others, even if we think we know more than them? If that took root in the hearts of men and women, there would probably be a lot more listening and a lot less arguing. There would probably be a lot more compassion and a lot less conflict.
Maybe it is worth a shot.
Often the “call to action” from the scriptures each week is to go out into the world and do something. Do a kind act. Donate to a cause. Join a service opportunity. What if instead the call to action this week, or this month, or this year is to make a commitment to suspend the arrogance of thinking you have it all figured out. Follow the example of God speaking through Ezekiel and the example of God the Son – Jesus. Instead of knowing it all, ask a question of someone and then… listen.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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