It’s interesting that while the Western Christian world speaks of Thomas as “doubting Thomas” , the orthodox church of the east calls him “believing Thomas” in reference to his exclamation “my Lord and my God” after having seen Christ and touching his wounds! They choose to honour his exclamation of faith rather than his quite understandable – and temporary – expression of doubt.
Jesus, of course, honoured Thomas’s questioning in a very special way! Think about it for a moment. He came back, just for Thomas! He’d already visited the others. He returned just for Thomas and said, “Peace be with you. Touch my hands touch my side. See and believe.”
Friends, never, ever be ashamed of your doubts and questions. And let’s be honest; if you don’t have any, you are either kidding yourself or have fallen asleep. Frederich Buechner tells us that “doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving!” Indeed, more faith is often expressed in an honest doubt or question than in a pious platitude uttered with barely a minimum of thought or conviction.
The disciples of old could not reveal Christ while they remained safe and hidden behind closed doors. Their witness couldn’t even convince Thomas, one of their own companions! Neither will our witness convince modern day Thomas’s so long as we claim a similar posture. Those who are seeking a new experience of faith will not be easily drawn to churches that comfortably assume the fact of their own relevance or give too-easy answers. Folks who are seeking a deeper experience of theological inquiry will struggle to maintain connections with faith communities that are intolerant of their questions.
We need to follow Jesus’ example and open ourselves to the honest questioning of those who come seeking a new truth. We need to equip ourselves with the tools needed to engage in responsible and mature theological reflection, confident in the knowledge that our faith tradition is robust and strong enough to bear the weight of our critical self-reflection. Indeed, if that faith tradition is to carry any real authority, beyond mere lip-service, such reflection is of absolute necessity.
An old saying tells us that ships that remain in the harbour are safe ships. But that isn’t what ships are made for! The same is true for the ship that is the church. It can remain safe in the harbour; disciples can remain safe, locked away behind closed doors. But that’s not what this ship has been made for and that’s not what disciples are made for.
Like Thomas, a spiritually hungry world is pleading “Show us your wounds.” They are looking for a body of believers that resembles Christ’s Body, a church that is visibly following Him in the way of the cross. And unless we are serious about providing that kind of a witness, all our busy chit-chat about evangelism and outreach is really just a lot of self-serving, empty talk.
We are about to enter the season of Easter – the season of resurrection and new life. It’s an opportune time for us to take a good hard look at the witness we are providing. It’s an opportune time for us to join with Thomas in His great confession “My Lord and my God!” It’s an opportune time for us to reveal the crucified and risen Lord and thereby reveal a life truly worth living!