But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
(John 20:24-25 NRSV)
Poor old Thomas. Though he was one of Jesus’ closest followers he is often castigated as the doubter, perhaps a little unfairly. “Don’t be such a Doubting Thomas” we are told when we are unsure of something which is assented to by others.
Here is Thomas: grief-stricken that his friend and master had been brutally executed just a few days earlier, being asked to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. His doubt is not unreasonable, to say the least!
Sadly, faith is often described as an “in or out” thing, or perhaps as a “yes or no” decision. For some people that will be valid. However, I would wager that you could look around the vast majority of church communities and see a variety of understandings of faith.
As a Christian minister, my role is not to persuade everyone to think like me and believe everything I believe about God. Rather, my role is to encourage people to see that they are deeply loved by God, and to help that discovery to nurture and shape their lives – to help them feel that they belong to the community of faith (in all its diversity), and to believe that they are precious children of God, so that we can all better learn to love God and each other.
That is why I think that the best worshipping fellowship – church community – has boundaries which are so nebulous that members of the wider community will feel “safe” to come and explore what faith might mean to them, without feeling that they are being “signed up”.
Faith and doubt are not incompatible.
Faith can often be there in the presence of doubt. There is no necessary conflict between rational and spiritual thought. We can grow in faith through our questioning.
Growing in faith is like learning to be more fully human; and that can be a lifetime’s project.
on this lifetime journey of exploration;
help me to grow
in my understanding of God’s love
so that it may shape my life
and deepen my faith.