Today’s author is Prince of Peace member, Paul Sponheim.

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:31)    

As Christians, we are in the belief business. Doubting Thomas seeks proof for the belief that this man facing him really is the person who hung and died on the cross just days ago. Thomas receives a loving reprimand from Jesus. I have a lot of Thomas in me. I do think doubt can be our friend over against excessive claims made to us by sellers who do not deserve our trust. But there also is a doubt which turns us away from truth. In any case, I’m the son of both my devout mother and my agnostic father. When I face a call to believe both parents show up. When it comes to my siblings we find both committed Christians and committed agnostics. Moreover, what counts as believing? How do we classify a sister telling her seminary student brother that “Paul, I want to believe, but I JUST CAN’T.” In that late night confession is there somehow a saving “baptism of desire”? 

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

The Belief business doesn’t seem to be thriving lately. For that matter, is not the case for agnosticism a pretty strong one? After all, the disciples had just seen their loving leader put to death. And, death is death, THE END OF THE STORY. If we spin ahead 2000 years Thomas has many questioners sharing his skepticism. So, when the world of religion comes up, you will often hear the invitation to membership dismissed with an “I want a FACT-BASED LIFE. And, after all, death is death! That’s a fact! For that matter, consider all the damage done by people who have sold out to the dangerous claim that the founding figure in their faith somehow beat the Grim Reaper. From such a wooly-headed faith comes the domineering absolutism that turns against those outside their true faith.

Are we left, then, with an arbitrary choice between an absolute dogmatism demanding empirically demonstrated facts or an absolute confession of a faith without any reasoned road to acceptance? I think not. Notice that Jesus does not question that in seeing his Lord’s wounds Thomas does now believe. But truly blessed are those who put aside demands for proof by narrowly defined “facts”. Of these latter disciples it is said that they “yet have come to believe”. There seems to be a process involved. There is recognition of the challenge (“yet”) Is it not still true? I know that for me in faith there are a whole bunch of strands stitched together in a comforting and challenging quilt of faith. Perhaps it was those bible stories told by that devout mother.  Or perhaps, it was a Martin Luther King, Jr., writing from a Birmingham jail cell, of Jesus as “an extremist in love”. Perhaps, I came across Matthew 25 (34-36)  and learned that care for the suffering is the standard Jesus uses in welcoming candidates to the beloved community. In any case, I joined a group of disciples calling their gathering place Prince of Peace. Yes, I too have “come to believe”. The members of this motley throng are truly blessed,  for they have heard somebody saying repeatedly “Peace be with you.” In this strife-torn world, in the turbulence of our changing neighborhoods, in the quicksand of our faith-diverse families let us make our faith claims, but may we remember that we seek to serve a peace-giving God. As Pastor Peter would say: May God’s peace find you today.