The Nobility of Doubt
On this second Sunday of the Easter Season, we always hear the story of the disciples encountering the risen Jesus. But Thomas was not there. He would not believe until he, too, saw Jesus in his wounded body. Thus, the moniker for all eternity: “Doubting Thomas.”
Yet Thomas did want to believe. He just needed something to go on…and so do we. We hear these stories every year, but we never have the luxury of meeting Jesus face to face, in the flesh, as his disciples did. We can have no certainty based on senses or observation. “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe….”
The Church historically has placed far too much emphasis on believe in various doctrines, and far too little emphasis on following Jesus in our words and our deeds. Jesus himself did not demand intellectual assent to a list of teachings. He just wanted his followers to love God and each other, to be kind, to eschew violence, to forgive. He generally did not call himself “Messiah,” or “Son of God.” He usually referred to himself as the “Son of Man,” that is, a human like us, “everyman.” Spiritual teacher Richard Rohr points out that we have emphasized worshiping Jesus instead of following Jesus.
As I reach the end of my full time church ministry, I have plenty of doubts about historical events in scripture. I question a number of church doctrines and teachings – many of which seem to have little to do with following Jesus! What I still have is a faith in the God I know through Jesus – that God loves each of us as children, that God wants us to be whole, happy souls, that God walks with us in sorrowful times to comfort us, and that – in the end – all death is swept away by God’s power of life and love.
That’s not a statement of doctrine or belief so much as it is an affirmation of trust. And I believe that’s all we really need. “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe….” JBM