Characters in the Bible aren’t immune from this. It’s why Thomas, Jesus’ disciple, gets a bad rap. We call him the Doubter. We bring him up any time we need to call into question the faith of a person in relation to just about anything. Well, let’s back up a bit and look at Thomas. In the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus is telling his disciples that he had to go prepare a place for them and it’s Thomas that speaks up and wants to know how to follow Christ to his destination. In the 11th chapter, Jesus is getting ready to go to Bethany because Lazarus has died and the disciples don’t want to go. They are afraid they will be killed. It’s Thomas who speaks and says “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Not the words and attitude of a person who should be looked down upon for 2000 years.
Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when Jesus firsts visits them in the upper room. Why isn’t he with them? I don’t know. Maybe he had something to do. It doesn’t really matter. None of them believed that Christ had risen. They were all doubters until Jesus showed up in that room and showed them his hands and side. Doubters all. But Thomas didn’t believe because he wasn’t there. They were meant to be together. We are meant to be together as believers. It helps us strengthen our faith.
A week later, Thomas was with them when Jesus came to them. Jesus knew Thomas’ struggle and didn’t chastise him for it. He didn’t treat him harshly or question him. Jesus offered Thomas a way to believe and let go of doubt. Christ met Thomas where he was in life. And it’s here that Thomas speaks again. He immediate offers the great affirmation of the deity of Jesus of Nazareth. “My Lord and my God.”
That’s what Jesus does. He meets us where we are. A frenzied father once pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And he did. It’s what Christ does. But he doesn’t let us wallow in doubt. Doubt is being in limbo. It is being in a state of both belief and unbelief. Is doubt always sin? No, but it isn’t always innocent either and it is always serious. You can’t sit on the fence forever. And that is tough because, as a seminary professor of mine once said, absolute certainty exists only in the minds of fanatics and psychotics. All life includes a margin of uncertainty. Life does not wait while we hesitate. No one has the luxury of waiting until all the answers have come in before choosing to act. Life moves forward. If we refuse set our own course, life will set it for us. Choice is thus unavoidable. Refusing to choose is itself a choice. Risk of error is inescapable. We have to come to a place where we venture out in faith—daring to live by our deepest convictions—knowing that we might be wrong, but trusting God to meet us where we are in life.
We give Thomas a bad rap as a doubter and we praise Peter and Paul for their missionary works. But it was Thomas, in 52 AD, that sailed all the way to India and spent 20 years preaching and teaching making disciples. Thomas did it until he ran out of breath because a spear punctured his chest as he prayed kneeling on a rock. 8 million St. Thomas Christians exist in the world because of a doubter’s belief.