Few things give me more doubt than just sitting and reading the Bible.
There. I said it.
I am reading through the New Testament for Lent. I assumed this statement wouldn’t pop up until I started reading Paul, but Jesus himself brought it rushing in.
I can handle it in small chunks like we get in sermons or on the blog. But really powering through it is tough. It raises a lot more questions than it answers. There is some hard stuff to swallow.
But as a good Christian I am not supposed to say that. I am supposed to stuff it all down. I am not supposed to poke at any of the assumptions we find in the Bible because if I really chased them all the way down…what would I find?
I think many of us avoid asking hard questions about the Bible or admitting we have doubts because we treat faith like it is a house of cards. This thing we believe in is frail and fragile and all it takes is one wrong question and the whole thing will come crumbling down.
So it is easier to just leave it alone. To hold my breath and walk by on my tiptoes and never dig in too deeply.
If I am honest, I have no interest in a house of cards faith. I want the kind of view of my life, the world, God, and other people that can handle tough questions, allows me to explore assumptions all the way, and can take a punch when I need to throw one.
Which is why I am a Christian.
Oddly enough, this is because I believe Christianity to be primarily concerned with reality.
Christianity has such a broad and open view of the world.
Christianity believes humanity is, at it’s core, good. It is created good and is intended to bring more good to the world.
But it has no problem acknowledging the world we live often does not look “good.” There is death, destruction, despair, and injustice all around us.
Yet Christianity believes there is hope in this. History is headed somewhere, God has not given up, and all of those awful realities do not have the last word.
Christianity is not scared of being honest about the bad things, but gives us a view of reality which brings hope and joy and love into our daily existence.
This week we focus on God meeting us right where we are.
This is the insistence that God does not shy away from “the bad.”
God is not scared of doubt. God is not scared of sin. God is not scared of tough questions.
In fact, these are actually the places God waits around to meet us.
We can meet God in the happy, joyful, undoubting places. But if we try to stay there all the time we build a house of cards. If we want faith that has meaning and brings purpose to life, we need it to be able to handle the shake ups.
We need a house built on a rock.
Christianity is not concerned with the kind of faith that unravels when you pull at a thread. Christianity is concerned with the kind of faith that gives meaning and purpose to life. It is concerned with reality. It is concerned with what is ultimate and true.
Doubt is a part of reality. Questions, difficulties, sin – all part of reality.
And if something is real and ultimate and true it not only has to deal with those realities, but it has to be able to stand firm no matter what you throw at it.
Otherwise it actually isn’t real and ultimate and true.
I read this quote this week:
True faith is a constant dialogue with doubt, for God is incomparably greater than all our preconceptions about Him; our mental concepts are idols that need to be shattered. So as to be fully alive, our faith needs continually to die.
Part of the faith journey is learning what images and preconceptions of God to kill.
That is tough work. It makes us look at ourselves really closely, it makes us ask hard questions about our faith, beliefs, traditions, and practices. It makes us push back on our assumptions about who God is and what Jesus is all about.
These are all very difficult because the way we think about faith, God, and tradition are not ethereal concepts we can philosophize about without emotion. They are central to who we are and how we make sense of our lives.
So we doubt.
And we wrestle. And we ask. And we rage. And we mourn.
Because these are part of the reality of who we are. Christianity is concerned with reality. If we have doubts and sin and anger and questions, God wants all of it.
us to embrace these “dark times” and “deaths” so new life can occur. This is what Lent is all about.
We knock down the house of cards so we can embrace truth and reality. And as we do we find the new life of Christ waiting amidst the rubble offering us a better vision of life and way to be in the world.