From One Rhetorical Question to Another

The rhetorical question is the surest way to avoid the truth—or to state it. I am like any one else, sometimes confident and wise, sometimes feeling threatened and defensive.

I was that “teacher of the law” who came to challenge Jesus. I wanted some way to fulfill the law—my way. I knew the law, love God and love others. But what seemed so simple had been very hard in a real world. I may have mouthed the words, but I did not believe them.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”[1]

Oh, come on! Of course I love God. It’s people that bug me. So I played the surest card I knew—my rhetorical question. Surely this would trap him.

I arranged my face to seem as sincere and respectful as possible.

I asked, “And who is my neighbor?”[2]

What I meant was, “Don’t be ridiculous!”

“A man …” he said.

“Robbers … stripped him … beat him, leaving him half dead.”[3]

“A priest … passed by …”[4]

“A Levite … passed by …”[5]

“But a Samaritan … took pity on him … bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.

“He … put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.”[6]

“Which of these three … was a neighbor to the man …?”[7]

Silence was my only line of defense just then. He was good. Oh, He was good and I was trapped. The answer was obvious, and He needed no reply from me, a rhetorical checkmate. I scrambled to find that one small space through which I could escape.

It was not to be.

“The one who had mercy on him,” I said.

He said, “Go and do likewise.”

A question led to an answer, and the answer must lead to action. God give me the strength to be that neighbor. God let me encounter that neighbor in my time of need.

[1] Luke 10:28

[2] Luke 10:29

[3] Luke 10:30

[4] Luke 10:31

[5] Luke 10:32

[6] Luke 10:33-34

[7] Luke 10:36


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