4-20-17 - Believing Before Knowing

There’s always one. Somebody who missed it, didn’t see the big moment, was looking the other way, in the bathroom at the wrong time. But few people are forever identified with missing it, to the extent that the word “Doubting” becomes appended to their name. Poor Thomas. So many others have doubted; he had so many sterling qualities. Yet for two thousand years his name has been synonymous with doubt.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’”

Thomas wasn’t the only one who questioned. In Mark we read, “Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” (Mk 16:14)

Thomas stands wrongly accused of doubting. The opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is certainty. That’s what Thomas wanted; he didn’t want to have to go on faith. Neither do we – faith is hard work. It means, by definition, not knowing for sure. Once we have proof, who needs faith?

Yet we exercise faith all the time – we place faith in the engineering of bridges and elevators, in the attention of other drivers, in the unseen hand of “The Market,” God help us. Why is it a greater stretch to place faith in a God whose presence is felt by millions, who has inspired uncountable acts of generosity and sacrifice? Why not believe in the risen Christ, when faith in his life in us has been affirmed for over two thousand years, by every kind of person, rich, poor, simple, erudite, good of heart and ethically challenged?

The operative word is “exercise.” Our faith is a muscle that grows stronger with use. We start out affirming our faith in God’s activity in our lives in small ways, and gradually try on bigger challenges. Jesus invites us to seek confirmation; when he shows up again the following week and Thomas is there, he invites him to touch his wounds and see for himself. But he also urges Thomas to greater faith:

Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

What aspect of God’s life or the Christian Good News do you having trouble putting faith in?
How about having a conversation with Jesus about that in prayer. “Hey, I don’t believe that story…” or “How can I have faith in your healing, when it doesn’t always happen?” As with any conversation, speak and listen. What word or thought or image comes to mind as you sit with your doubts?

Jesus’ gentleness with Thomas should encourage us. He knows faith is hard. He also knows it is the currency of God’s realm in this world, and the stronger ours is, the richer we are. One day we’ll see everything we now only affirm by faith. Believing before we see draws us that much closer to the One who is our future.

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