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Dealing With Doubters

In John 20, we read of Jesus’ appearance to the apostles after his resurrection. Thomas wasn’t with the other apostles, and when they told Thomas what had happened, he made the familiar declaration: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” From this account, the story of “doubting Thomas” took root.

Though Jesus appeared again a week later while Thomas was with the other apostles and Thomas saw the nail marks and touched them and Thomas then believed, Thomas is often looked down on, because he was a doubter. Based on Thomas’ story, doubting has been given a bad name, and we express doubt at our peril.

Have we never doubted? Have we ever expressed doubt to other Christians? What happened? Sometimes, a deeply spiritual, rewarding conversation. Sometimes, something close to rejection; doubters not welcome.

While not usually emphasized about this story, it’s interesting to note that the other apostles didn’t kick Thomas out of their number. During the week they were all together before Jesus appeared a second time, maybe they discussed Thomas’ doubt. Maybe Thomas was reminded of all that Jesus had said and done. But Thomas remained one of them, even though the others believed and Thomas doubted. Then when Jesus appeared again, Thomas made his powerful statement of faith: “My Lord and my God!”

It is believed that Thomas became a missionary in present-day India where he converted many people to Christianity, established several churches, and was martyred. Consequently, “doubting Thomas” became “St. Thomas.”

Thomas trusted his fellow apostles so much that he was able to express a significant doubt about Jesus without fearing he would be disowned. That’s the way it should be among Christians. Doubt can lead to deeper faith, especially if we can talk about it with fellow believers and know that we are safe in doing so.

2 comments… add one
  • Ellis Thomas April 5, 2016, 2:13 PM

    Such a good reminder that doubt is a large part of faith! It isn’t until we are wondering and questioning that the Lord can teach us he is in fact the living God and can save us from all of our doubt. Presently, Christianity is countercultural….there may be more doubt now, than ever. But it is in that sea of doubt that the Lord teaches us how to swim, and that, of course, is faith.

    • John B. Phillips April 6, 2016, 9:30 AM

      Very good points. Part of Christianity being countercultural is that it’s countercultural to say that doubt is a large part of faith. But it is. Part of the story of Thomas is that after he had seen the resurrected Jesus, Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” One of the things that says, at least to me, is that faith is different for everyone. It takes longer for some. It seems stronger in some than in others. That’s why it’s important that we be willing to talk about faith with other Christians, regardless of the specifics of what we believe at any particular time. Talking and sharing and listening help our faith to grow and become deeper. Thanks for your comment.

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