Things a Christian is (apparently) not meant to say:
“I’ve got doubts.”
“I’m not sure what God means by that.”
“Yep, some of that Bible stuff makes no sense to me either.”
Yes, I have said them all. I know I’m not alone in this. However, as a leader in a Christian context, there is a responsibility to speak with ‘biblical’ authority (whatever that means) on matters of faith. I have convictions and responses, founded in scripture, for many of the questions. But I have also found that the more my worldview broadens, the more I attempt to educate myself, the more I try to find definitive answers; the more I find myself saying, “Ummmm, I don’t know.”
This is not always a comforting response for me, or the person that may be asking the questions. We all want surety. Our western minds love certainty. But as we read the scriptures, we see people in them with doubts and questions.
There is a passage in the New Testament known as ‘The Great Commission’. It is a call to action, from Jesus, for all persons of faith. The actual scene occurred on a mountain after the resurrection as Jesus meets with his remaining followers.
“18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
Ok, this passage in itself needs a whole blog post… or eight!
Let me try and summarise, because there is some language here which sounds forceful and religious, but if understood, is actually really exciting.
Jesus is telling his disciples (students or followers) to go and encourage others to become followers of his ways and be baptised as a physical (or outward) expression of their new internal convictions in the name of the Trinity.
The Trinity is a big one to explain but is often defined as an unending cycle of love or a ‘Divine Dance’ between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus is speaking of being invited into this unending love through baptism. (Ok, that’s a rough description, you can add your definition in the comments below 🙂 )
So, what are his ways or commands?
Heres a few:
Love your enemy
Stand up to injustice
Help the poor and needy
Feed the hungry
Heal the sick
Seriously, is that not some of the best ‘commandments’ ever?! Oh and one other thing, as you go and do those things, Jesus is with you, always. Yes, yes and amen!
Imagine a world where the followers of Jesus, ‘Christians’, committed to following those ways and commandments.
Ok, so why don’t we? And why isn’t every nation now doing these things as well?
One main reason, Doubt!
You see, somewhere along the line, we have decided that the ‘Christian faith’ requires certainty. Certainty in the bible. Certainty in what we believe God will do.
This, if you know your scriptures, is the complete opposite of what Hebrews 11 defines as ‘faith’. Faith, by its very definition, is only needed when there is a lack of surety or certainty.
Somehow we have told ourselves that this ‘Great Commission’ is only for those disciples who were certain of everything to do with God. These are the ones that Jesus would choose to spread the good news because they were 100% in! Of course they were, they stood in front of the resurrected Messiah as he gave this commission.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.”
This was right before Jesus gives them the most important task in human history!
(Note: the original Greek also describes ‘doubted’ as ‘standing at a distance’)
The reality is, despite the evidence standing in front of them, some of these disciples doubted… And Jesus knew it! They were standing back, maybe arms crossed, a puzzled look on their face. They were unsure.
You would expect Jesus to point them out, “Hey you guys up the back, I hope that’s not you again Thomas… Yeah you lot with your arms crossed. You doubt me? I pull the greatest miracle ever and resurrect from the dead and you still doubt?! Sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to leave, you can’t be a part of this.”
If ‘certainty’ is what defines your involvement in this life of faith, then that is what you would expect Jesus to say.
But he doesn’t! He addresses those who are worshipping him, the exact same way as he addresses those who doubt him… And the commission is still the same!
So for those of you who doubt. For those of you that stand at a distance. For those that can’t explain each and every miracle. For those that have questions. For those that fear that God isn’t present. For those that don’t have all the evidence. You’re still invited to be part of God’s plan to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth… Yep, you’re invited with your doubts, your questions and your uncertainty.
You’re invited to love God. You’re invited to Love your enemy. You’re invited to bring peace. You’re invited to defend the oppressed. You’re invited to forgive. You’re invited to love your enemy. You’re invited to feed the hungry. You’re invited to heal the sick. You’re invited to be honest. You’re invited to love yourself. You’re invited to stand up to injustice.
You’re invited to the great commission of Jesus Christ because doubt did not exclude the first disciples and it sure doesn’t exclude you from experiencing what he has in store.
Grace and Peace