One of the more interesting disciples found in the New Testament is St Thomas, commonly called St Thomas the Doubter. Thomas was not in the house when Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection. Frankly, he doubted the assertion of the ten disciples that Jesus had appeared to them. He would not believe until he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched Jesus' wounds with his own hands. But Thomas really shouldn't be called a Doubter. After all, not believing the words of one's friends was not a flaw that was peculiar to Thomas alone. Most people don't believe their friends. It's part of the human condition. We think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We believe others can be mistaken or fooled, but not we. We know that our own words can't be trusted therefore others might also be liars. We do not live in each other's bodies, lives, hearts. We are separate from each other and so how can we truly know, feel, and experience what others are going through? And often, the easiest thing is to doubt. We may not think doubting is the "easiest thing." After all, cynics are considered true thinkers and believers are considered gullible. In the Christian world, however, believing is the hard work. It is very easy to disbelieve.
The apostle John mentions the obvious several times: We have seen something wonderful with our own eyes. We have experienced the lovely, the painful, the strange. But you won't believe us. This is no mere theological problem. It is a problem of human trust, human pride, and human separateness.
Imagine, for instance, that your friend –who looks perfectly well– were to tell you that she is really quite sick. You might raise your eyebrows. After all a sick person shouldn't be walking around looking in the best of health. You will obviously take this person's comments about himself with a large dollop of salt. But what if you're wrong? Certain illnesses are not particularly showy. Certain people have the amazing ability to move about in radiance even when they're on their last legs. So, what is the sick friend to do to get your sympathy? "play the game" of appearing sick? And wouldn't your distrust of your friend's words create great mental distress for him? After all, what sick person wants a friend who constantly cross-examines her and nags her to prove her ill health?
Now, it's quite understandable that we learn to doubt other people. The world is full of liars, exaggeraters, fools speaking great swelling words, and dummies with degrees. People like ourselves in short. But even before lies ruled the world and kicked truth out, even in the Garden of Eden, human nature has distrusted. Humans even distrusted God who is all Truth. This is the Original Sin and it is alive within us even to this day. We simply do not believe God. We do not believe in the kind-heartedness of others, we do not believe in the goodness of the world. We do not believe period.
Imagine someone telling you she's seen a ghost, been healed miraculously of cancer, are going to write the great American Novel. What will you do now? Will you think of yourself more highly than you ought to think? Or will you put aside your distrust just once? And really, how much would it hurt you to believe your fellow man and your God? It might deepen your Christianity, challenge you to read your Bible, teach you to open your heart and to stop judging your fellow man. Certainly great gains!
Please check out my article on pitfalls in Bible interpretation by cutting and pasting in the URL below: