While a missionary to my Jewish people in New York City, I met regularly with an orthodox Jewish man in Brooklyn I’ll call Ben. I’d go to his apartment once or twice a month and share the truth claims of Jesus to be the Messiah. One day Ben raised a very intimidating objection. He said, “Larry, Jesus can’t possibly be the Messiah due to the curse of Jeconiah!” What did I know about the curse of Jeconiah? I had been exposed to it in missionary training, but couldn’t recall any kind of cogent response in the moment. What’s a missionary to do? I’m supposed to have all the answers, right?
No worries. I simply told Ben, “That’s a good question. I’ll look into it.” It so happens I was familiar with the foremost Jewish apologist in the world, Dr. Michael Brown. And it so happens Dr. Brown has written five volumes entitled, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.
Dr. Brown covers every conceivable objection and question that could be raised from a Jewish perspective. I found a biblical response to Ben’s objection and shared it the next time I saw him.
Now I can’t say that cogent, reasonable response to his objection changed Ben’s position on Jesus – it didn’t. The point is there are answers to objections. And objections are a healthy and appropriate part of many people’s journey to faith. [For our purposes we’ll use objections and questions interchangeably.]
You see, answering questions inherently answers the objection that our faith is blind! Christian faith is not blind. Additionally, providing answers to legitimate objections is a powerful tool in helping the sincere inquirer in their search for truth. For we know that definition of faith includes reason and rationale:
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
So, faith is substantive and based upon evidence. For example, one powerful historical evidence is the empty tomb! God has given us a brain to use, so trusting in Jesus doesn’t mean I check our brains at the door. In fact, God has given us many reasons to believe. And answers to objections can provide reasons to do just that – believe.
In the midst of spiritual conversations, we need to be ready to give “a word aptly spoken” to objections that are raised. Because questions will be raised – count on it. And that’s a good thing.
When thinking about how to answer objections, let’s establish some ground rules:
When qualifying a person – we need to find out if they’re open? For the ‘$64,000 question’ we need to raise before engaging a question is this:
Are they genuinely interested in getting an answer to their question or objection and if so, are they prepared to deal with the answer they may find?
Because the reality is this: There are consequences for the person who engages in honest inquiry into the truth claims of Jesus and the Christian faith – the most profound consequence being: “What will you do if you find out it’s true – that Jesus is exactly who He claims and who the bible claims Him to be?” Or in other words: “If God shows you the gospel is true, will you believe in Jesus?”
You know, when someone raises questions or objections, we need to qualify if that person is sincere or insincere?
The honest inquirer is actually searching for the truth. The insincere may pose questions and objections as sport because they simply want to blow you off or make you squirm. This is where listening and qualifying apply. For the insincere, there’s no need to waste your time scrambling for answers.
I’ve often asked people, especially my Jewish people, this question – Is there any possibility Jesus is the Messiah? If they say no, we’re done. What can I do? I’m just a guy. If a person has already made up their mind, fine. If they say maybe, my next question is – Are you interested in finding out?
Find out if their question or objection is sincere – Do they really care to engage an answer or response? If so, proceed. If not, continue loving them, serving them and praying for them as we’ve noted.
In conclusion, a healthy aspect of the spiritual conversation is the question posed by the sincere inquirer. We need to affirm honest inquiry and be ready with a word aptly spoken. Don’t think you have to be ready to answer every question – that’s an intimidating prospect. A word aptly spoken includes the freedom to respond: “That’s a great question. Let me do a little research and get back with you.” We may not have an answer on the spot, but it’s important to be able to find appropriate answers to honest inquiry. In contrast, you may have an answer that provides greater understanding and propels the conversation along.
Next time we’ll address specific answers to objections as we seek to grow in our conversational witness to others.
May the Lord grant each of us wisdom and discernment to appropriately respond to questions and objections – for His glory and for the benefit of those searching for truth. Amen.
“A man has joy by the answer of his mouth and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!”
– Proverbs 15:17