Saturday, July 17, 2010

4 lessons I cherish from "Doubting Thomas"

For a long time I've wondered why the disciple Thomas, often referred to as "Doubting Thomas", has such a bad reputation in Christian circles. He only shows up a few times in the bible, and every one of those appearances show him to be somebody I respect and appreciate.

Even with his scant role, there are four key lessons I learn from him:

#1 -- Everybody doubts

Sure, Thomas didn't believe the stories that Jesus had risen from the dead and was walking around Jerusalem once again. But the other disciples didn't believe either! They were hiding out in homes, trying to figure out how and where to start the next chapters of their lives, probably seeing those three years with Jesus as a powerful, fascinating but failed journey.

So all the disciples were in the same boat of doubt -- Thomas was nothing special on that point.

#2 -- Everybody doubts, but not everybody admits it

Ah, here is where Thomas was special. He voiced his doubts boldly. That takes guts!

For some reason our world, including the church, values honesty and integrity very highly yet they look down on people who express doubt. Even when it's just honest and natural to be doubtul. Often it's seen as negative, pessimistic or like "giving up" instead of pressing ahead and living as if there's no problem.

I agree that negativity is dangerous and can be addictive. But who is wishing right now that the doubters at British Petroleum would have been heard more readily about safety risks? Because you know they were there, and someone spoke up.

Such a fine line between needless pessimism and normal (or even necessary) skepticism.

Why call Thomas' style of doubt only the former?

#3 -- Sometimes, even when you doubt, it's noble to follow your HOPES

In the book of John it is recorded that when Jesus told his apostles he would return to Jerusalem, they recommended against it. The Pharisees, Romans and other groups seldom mentioned in the New Testament (Gnostics, for one) were all out to use Jesus for their own means. And if they couldn't use Jesus, they would likely kill him.

Thomas jumps in and says, "Let's go and die with him." For some reason most of the preachers these days seem to recite this quote in a sarcastic tone, as if Thomas was saying the trip to Jerusalem was a dumb idea.

I strongly disagree. That quote is heroic. These are words from a man who thinks he'll probably be dead in a week because his teacher is leading the group into a trap. But he decides to go anyway. I love that!

I've got doubts about all kinds of things. And while it's honest to express those, sometimes it's also noble to set the doubts aside and take a risk.

#4 -- God is, at least sometimes, willing to meet doubters on their terms

The New Testament shows that Thomas just wasn't going to believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he got solid proof. And Jesus gave it to him, allowing Thomas to inspect the wounds from crucifixion.

If there's a sense of Jesus doing this reluctantly, I'm missing it in the text. I picture Jesus holding out his hands with excitement, love and a bit of pride as he witnesses Thomas making that step from doubter to believer.

And from that moment on, Thomas was one of the most powerful missionaries of the group. History suggests that he traveled farther than any other apostle, and even started churches in India that still exist today.

Thomas. I love that guy.


Debby said...

Thomas took Jesus at his word. Ask and it shall be given unto you. He asked his questions, and the answers were given to him. I'm always comforted by the fact that Jesus loved Thomas even with his doubts. It makes it easier to believe that He can love me with all my questions.

One question I've got, Redlefty. How is this from April 12th? But know what? I'm glad you're back. Hug the kidlets and Redwifey for me!

Redlefty said...

Good catch, Debby! Believe it or not, that's actually when I wrote the skeleton draft for this topic.

Life's been insane and I'm just now getting back into the writing thing.

The post date is now fixed; thanks again!

Andrew said...

I so agree with you, Thomas has always gotten a bad rap. I particularly resonate with #4. I grew hearing Jesus being a little impatient and exasperated with Thomas, but I have come to see it differently. Jesus just gave Thomas what he needed and sought.

Logan said...

Loved this! So glad to see you back!

Don said...

You always manage to write posts that are unique for me. I like that. Hope things are back to the "normal", hectic life of Michael. Nice to have you back...

Bob said...

Here's your next sermon, Man.

I love Thomas too. I think he's in there for a reason -- because so many of us identify with him.

Great thoughts, as usual.

Redlefty said...

Thanks gang!

Don, thank you again. Writing "newish" stuff is paramount to me because I love reading it, therefore it's what I want to deliver. Sort of a golden rule blog style.

Bob, I do have a sermon topic in mind but it's not this one!

Sireeta said...

Hello Redlefty! I have been reading every single one your posts since I found your blog back in Febuary. I am glad that you found the time to be able to share once again :) I will soon be a mother of two, so I can relate :)

I feel like this recent post is a golden little nugget that can be easily overlooked. The message is just so simple. I never would have thought of Thomas in this way. I am at the point now where all of the lonliness, confusion,anger, depression has been worked through in my journey out of the traditional box of religion. I don't allow guilt and condemnation to keep me from resting in Him even when I question or doubt. That is a part of the process of growing in Him I think.

Redlefty said...


Wow, thank you so much and what a nice way to meet you on the blog. I will certainly be posting more often for a while, so stick around!

MamaRose said...

Well, I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU, Bud & will go 'even further'--EVEN THOUGH Thomas committed suicie/KILLED HIMSELF--I believe he STILL MIGHT BE IN HEAVEN WITH US ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!--or at least one/some PART of it!!!!! What do you think about that?????!!!!!!!!!

WELCOME, Sireeta!!!!! I'm SO GLAD you've worked through your OWN FAITH--I would say--from the Bible--that whenever we're feeling GUILT and/or CONDEMNATION, it's COMING FROM SATAN/THE DEVIL--at least, he's the one who's happiest about it!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAY TO GO!!!!!!!!

LOVE YOU BUNCHES, Michael!!!!!!!!!!

Debby said...

Thomas killed himself? I thought that he was killed by Romans in Malta. Is there new thinking on this?

You know, I read a neat thing on Thomas. It spoke of how difficult he was to get along with, moody and temperamental. The other apostles had trouble with him because of his melancholy, suspicious nature. But it said also that he had a fine organized mind and was a very good leader, accomplished a great deal for the Lord. It also says that Jesus loved him, and enjoyed long conversations with him. I cannot say whether that information is accurate, but isn't it nice to think that God sees our potential in the midst of our flaws? Isn't it nice to think that He could sit down and have long conversations with us despite them. I like that picture. I like it very much.

Redlefty said...


You're right -- I think my mom typed out "Thomas" but was thinking "Judas".

In her defense, she had to live in the same house with me for almost 20 years. The fact she can form a sentence at all after surviving that is a miracle in itself! I mean, you can see from my blogging how weird a place my mind is, and you're only visiting it a few minutes a week.

Debby said...

I actually think that you have quite a fine mind. And I also believe that good parenting brings out our talents, so I'm 'blaming' your mom and dad both for their fine son.

MamaRose said...

Well, WHAT WAS I THINKING????!!!!!

Of course, it was JUDAS, NOT THOMAS, who hung himself--sorry for the slipup, folks!!!!!!!!!