Qualifying Belief

I’ll believe it when I see it.

What does that mean, exactly?

It means I’m qualifying my belief. It’s a statement of unbelief.

If you said, “I’ll believe you can write 365 blog posts when I see it,” then essentially you are saying, “I don’t believe you can write 365 blog posts.”

We qualify our beliefs for good reason most of the time. We’ve seen how life works. We’ve seen more often how life doesn’t work. So we become what a friend of mine calls “loyal pessimists.”

The most loyal pessimist in the Bible was doubting Thomas. He was the disciple of Jesus who said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” He didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. He hadn’t seen it. People don’t rise from the dead, so he had good reason not to believe.

But Thomas illustrates something about unbelief. Unbelief never happens in a vacuum. Thomas isn’t a neutral person waiting for a belief to happen. No, he actively believes that people don’t rise from the dead – even if they tell you beforehand that they will, which is what Jesus had done.

That’s why my friend who preached on this called Thomas a “loyal pessimist.” The loyalty of Thomas is loyalty to a belief, not just that people don’t come back from death, but specifically that his teacher, who told him he would rise again, could not do this thing.

My friend also said that we shouldn’t be too hard on Thomas because Jesus wasn’t.

Jesus had already done all kinds of things that people don’t do. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He made the lame walk. He made the blind see. He created enough food for 5,000 out of what was essentially a box lunch. Thomas had seen all those things. Why was this last thing such a stretch?

It’s as if Thomas forgot what he had already seen. Here he is in good company. The rest of the disciples were always forgetting what they had already seen with Jesus. I’m also always forgetting what I have already seen with Jesus. I forget how compelling the evidence for the accuracy of the Bible is. I forget how strong the case for the historical resurrection is recorded in the gospels. I forget how I’ve been sustained by the truth of the gospel exercised by faith in Jesus. In short, I’m a loyal pessimist too…and it haunts me daily.

But my friend says that our incessant forgetting is met by Jesus with relentless forgiveness.

Jesus went to the cross and was resurrected for just this reason. He was forsaken by the Father so that we would be forgiven. He was forgotten so that we would always be remembered.

When I remember this, then I daily drop the loyalty to my pessimism.

The story of Thomas is in the Bible in John chapter 20. In the same place there are stories of Mary and Peter having their forgetting met with forgiveness as well. The resurrection is the most extraordinary thing, and Jesus does the next most ordinary thing in order to draw out belief from unbelief.

With Mary he simply says her name. With Thomas he holds out his hands. With Peter he makes breakfast on the beach. With me he gave a friend preaching.

Can we let our incessant forgetting be met today with relentless forgiveness? Will you remember and then be able to drop your doubt, your loyalty to pessimism, and be able to believe again that the resurrection is God’s love for you?

Let’s remember today, and with Thomas proclaim that Jesus is both our Lord and our God.

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