Have you ever sincerely questioned the teachings of Christianity and realized that doing so wasn’t well received? Enquirers of the Christian faith, as well as some believers, are often disheartened by the intolerance of many Christians toward skepticism of any kind. In my own experience I have often found that questioning what I have been taught, especially those views that are denominationally specific, isn’t taken too well. When teens or young adults begin to desire to ask “why” the answer is often “just believe”. This response is usually accompanied by a negative frown of disapproval. Because of this many young seekers who were sincere in their inquiring leave the faith. “Just believe” just doesn’t work.
I find it interesting how Jesus handled sincere doubters. It is often the polar opposite of how contemporary Christians react when Christianity is brought into question. Christ’s post-Resurrection encounters with the disciples display His desire to confirm Himself real. They show that Jesus loves doubters too.
The Gospel of John records the story of doubting Thomas. The remaining disciples had experienced the miracle of the Resurrection, save Thomas. Emphatically he declared that, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25). Though he is often placed in a negative light I respect Thomas. He wasn’t willing to accept and live off of a second hand encounter. He wanted to know the truth for Himself. I can identify with this man. I also believe Jesus respected this statement too.
The Gospel fast-forwards the narrative ahead to a week later. Once again the disciples are assembled together. Jesus appears into their room though the doors were locked. The first directed address spoken by Jesus is toward Thomas. He invites the doubter to, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (20:26, 27).
There are often facets of the Christian faith with which I struggle. Sometimes I can’t simply “just believe” what I have been told. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. Canned answers don’t feed the need to know. Clichés won’t satisfy. There has to be something more. Sometimes you just need to experience Jesus for yourself.
Even though it may not be well accepted there is nothing wrong with doubting and questioning. If we don’t wrestle with matters of truth we will never experience God the way we could. As the poet T.S. Eliot once stated, “doubt and uncertainty are merely a variety of belief”. All authentic relationships have their struggles. A relationship with God is not an exception to this rule. The beauty of the struggle is that God is at the forefront of our minds. Often when I am perplexed I find myself praying more, thinking about God more, and caring more about what is true. My walk with God becomes less about religion and more about relationship. My worth in the kingdom is not founded on if I cross all my t’s and dot all my i’s. As a finite human I will make mistakes, and I must realize that my knowledge is imperfect. Thankfully, I can be certain of Christ. I can be sure He cares. Even when doubt clouds my mind I can hold His hand, feel the finger prints, and hear Him remind me it is in Him that I believe. It is a comforting thing to know that Jesus loves doubters too.
[Brian LePort is the Young Adults Leader at the San Francisco Lighthouse church. He is currently working on his B.A. in Theology with the help of Starbucks coffee.]