We made it to the Sunday after Easter, hurray! We heard from one of the more famous scenes from the gospel of John, where the “doubting Thomas” finally comes face to face with the risen Jesus. Thomas had complained to the other disciples who had told him of the Resurrection that, “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" (John 20:25). Then Jesus shows up and is basically like, “Alright, Mr. Doubty Pants, go on then, stick your hands here.” (This is the official scholarly Savvy translation of the bible.) On an interesting note, whether or not Thomas actually does place his fingers into the wounds of the crucifixion, the text doesn’t detail. We just get the exclamation, “My God!” And then we get that show-stopper reply from Jesus, “You believe because you’ve seen. But the folks who haven’t seen and yet have believed anyway are blessed folks.”
Over the years, I’ve heard several preachers interpret this passage in order to tell people of faith that they should never doubt. In fact, they would pretty much shame people for their doubt, treating doubt as a spiritual weakness. Personally, I think this is a poor interpretation. In my opinion, doubt is not the opposite of faith, but a necessary component. (I happen to think meaninglessness is probably the opposite of faith, or maybe apathy, but that’s a different conversation.) On the other hand, doubt can be a source of positive change; sometimes the faith we were handed down might have some less-than-great components, dead branches that need pruning in order for us to have a healthier relationship with God and others. Maybe we were taught that God is an angry judge. Maybe we were taught we had to be part of one particular denomination or the sky would fall in. Maybe we were taught there was only one way to pray and that God couldn’t hear us if we didn’t follow that exact formula to the letter. Sometimes the theology we’re given can be toxic, and doubt is a necessary first-step cleanser to flush some of those things out that don’t serve our most loving life. Moreover, while too much doubt can plunge us into despair, I think a certain measure of doubt can help keep us humble in our faith. We remember that “we see through a mirror darkly”, to quote the apostle Paul for a second. #thanksPaul. Long story short, never let anyone make you feel ashamed for doubting. If you didn’t have at least a mustard seed of faith (which according to Jesus can move mountains), you wouldn’t have anything to doubt in the first place.