4/11: Acts 4:32-35 • Psalm 133 • 1 John 1:1-2:2 • John 20:19-31
Every year, the gospel on the Sunday after Easter is the same: the story in John about the one disciple who was out when the resurrected Jesus first appeared to the others. The absent one, Thomas, on hearing about the visit of Jesus, said he would not believe this story unless he could reach out and touch the marks in the flesh of the Lord. So, Jesus returns, and Thomas comes to believe.
More importantly, perhaps, is the last verse of the story, also the last verse of the gospel of John. The author is saying that he has written all of this down so that the reader might come to believe. Well, that's a high bar! It's one thing to write to entertain, or to make sense of something that's happened, or to remember a detail one might otherwise forget, or even to reflect on scripture. The business of writing so that others might believe is quite a goal.
It's commonly said that seeing is believing. For humans, though, the opposite is often more the case. People tend to see what they already believe. Apparently, the tendency to see what one expects to see is so common in criminal cases that an attorney will doubt any story if all the witnesses agree! If they all saw it the same way, then the story had to be made up.
The writer of John, then, is up against a lot. The reader's own ideas and expectations about scripture may get in the way of hearing these stories for what they are. They may keep the reader from even entertaining the ideas seriously. The first step, then, is for the reader to get a little looser about how this story might go. A bit of the willing suspension of disbelief may go along with this phase. Life itself pushes us to suspend our previously held notions, to open us up to new ways of seeing or thinking about a thing.
With a bit of an open mind, one can then consider whether a thing makes sense. Whether one is persuaded by a story, or a research article, or a well-reasoned argument, is the question. It's the question we often duck. The mental discipline required to think a thing through, to consider whether it fits with one's own views, experience, and knowledge, is challenging work. A person may have to set aside her own emotional reaction to consider what's there. In the end, human reasoning is fully alive when one's mind is yoked, somehow, to one's emotional system, with information flowing back and forth between the two. True thoughtfulness emerges, motivating a person to take a position – to act – on what's been understood.
The response of Thomas to Jesus' appearance was life-changing for him. What a person truly believes shows up in how she lives. Like the writer of John, each of us is an author: the author of one's own life. And all of us are readers, if you will, of each other's lives. Each person provides others her own lived interpretation of her way of seeing life through how she is living it. Active authorship begins with thinking about what one believes, and its influence on how one is living. That's all. And that's plenty, gracious plenty.
Morning: What do I believe? How does it match what I see or understand?
Evening: How did I act according to my beliefs today? When did I find them to be life-giving?
Psalm 150:6 Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!