Being a friend to Doubting Thomas

Thomas! Thomas! He's our man! We've written about him before, and he showed up prominently in the 2012 version of Confirm not Conform. But we also give credit to Thomas' friends who were able to hang in there with him in his doubt--something which can be a real challenge. Here's our Theological Statement for Session 2: Where do you stand: The Gospel According to Whom:

It is only when we are honest about our faith that our faith can be true. All too often, the church would rather have people say the right words than the honest ones.

An honest exploration of faith begins with an honest assessment of where one is starting from. Though it is difficult to watch someone—especially those we care about—doubt or deny tenets of faith that we find essential, simply stifling or overriding the genuine starting place of others will do nothing to deepen it.

In the story of the apostle Thomas (John 20:24-29), we have an excellent example not only of the courage of expressing doubt, but of the faith in letting someone doubt. “We have seen the Lord,” say the other disciples, and Thomas does not believe them. Though Thomas is rightly called “doubting,” it wasn’t Jesus that Thomas doubted, but his friends, the other disciples. It must have been painful for them to have such an important experience—seeing the risen Lord—scoffed at; and yet rather than arguing Thomas into submission, the relationships among the disciples seem to have gone on as before. As a result, a week later, when Jesus appeared to them again, “Thomas was with them.”

When we allow others to share what they honestly believe—or don’t believe—and we are not afraid, we make it easier for people to be open to experiences that may lead them into new understandings of faith. We also may deepen our belief and our understanding as we experience God through someone else’s perspective.