serve your way through

Last week Allen had a great post regarding doubt that resounded with parts of my story as a minister and as a follower of Christ. Because, the common response of Christians to the doubter isn’t always effective or even warranted.

Just look at the response of Christ to his beloved disciple, Thomas:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27
For Thomas to really believe, he had to experience Jesus as he was where he was. That is, experiencing Christ at that moment meant dealing with his wounds, and the reality that he meant everything he ever said.
So for Thomas he had to accept at that moment that in the resurrection, Christ now reigned and demanded his whole self.
That meant for Thomas he had to do as Jesus did:
– hang out with sinners
– love the rejected
– hack off the religious establishment
– stand up for the marginalized
When Jesus said “stop doubting and believe”, I think he was saying “believing in me means following me, not just talking about how to do it.” My theory is for Thomas to overcome his doubt he would have to really live out what Jesus said, experience what it meant to die and live again.

And, isn’t that just the way we avoid when we deal with doubting friends? At the first sign of doubt or unbelief we go into crisis mode and try to “fix” our friends. Instead, what if we let Jesus do the talking instead of engaging in rationalization?
Because, I can’t believe that anyone would have convinced Thomas Jesus was alive by apologetics. He had to experience Jesus, see what he looked like, and actually go so far as to stick his hand in his side to be convinced.
So, if it takes that much for someone who doubts to believe, do we think that good logic or condescending conversation will change a person and their belief system?

May I suggest another way:
Recently I was led to a post by Justin Zoradi (Executive Director of These Names have Faces) about what to do during seasons of doubt. He reflected about a story from St. Christopher (cool guy, I’m sure).
An excerpt of his story: (please read the whole post, though)
Despite his gifts, he found it hard to believe in God. This, however, did not prevent him from using his gifts to serve others. He became a ferry-boat operator, spending his life helping to carry people across a dangerous river.
One night, during a storm, the ferry-boat capsized and Christopher dove into the dark waters to rescue a young child. Carrying that child to the shore, he gazed upon the child and saw there the face of Christ.

For Zoradi, a clear path back to God is to serve. Or to put in in another frame maybe we just go to the places where Christ spent his life: serving and loving the most vulnerable.
Because, like Thomas, Christ is asking us to experience him in a very real and visceral way. We get our hands dirty and gain a rugged belief by finding ways to be close to the action. We serve.

This post helped me because during my own times of disbelief, if I am being really honest, did not end because of some great philosophical revelation. It ended because God showed up in those places. When I dedicated myself to serving those he really cared about he showed up.

What do you think about this? Does this idea resonate?

5 thoughts on “serve your way through

  1. Chris, there was something you said today that sparked a thought that I have been nagged with for a few weeks now.

    “experiencing Christ at that moment meant dealing with his wounds, and the reality that he meant everything he ever said.”

    To experience Christ means we have to deal with His wounds. His wounds…I have not dealt with Christ, because I want Him to be whole and sound and safe and clean and…

    But what if Christ still carries the wounds? His own, ours, other peoples? What does that mean for me? I honestly want people to leave me alone when I am wounded. I want them to know that I am hurt, but do not touch, do not try to console, do not soothe. I guess I am the same with others who are hurting sometimes as well. I don’t want to touch them or aid them.

    Thank you for this post today.

    • The wounds of Christ tend to be the haunting part of the story of Thomas we forget. That is why the “Incredulity of St Thomas” painting messes with me so much. All of the realties of Christ came crashing down on him at that point. And, I would think his assumptions about Christ came crashing down as well. Everything changed at that moment for him.

      And, I think that is how we can deal with doubt. It isn’t a thing of shame. We can confront doubt by putting ourselves in the positions where Christ can be seen. And, that isn’t always at a church service Sunday mornings. It might be at a soup kitchen.

  2. Every time I read this scene, I imagine Jesus being gentle with Thomas’ doubt. I don’t think Jesus is the one who tagged him with the awful nickname. Just a thought.

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