Archive for January, 2011

If you just saw the title of this post, you probably came either as a Ravens fan to show your support (even if it seems a bit like hyperbole), or to harass me for my sacrilege and heresy. But as I was walking down the streets in Pittsburgh toward Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, wearing my Terrell Suggs Ravens Jersey, I had this distinct feeling: “This is sort of like what it’s like to be a Christian.” You see, there were Steelers fans at one corner yelling all kinds of profanities at us and yelling at us to go home. Yet, as I listened to the screaming filth, I couldn’t help but smile more as the trash-talk got more intense. I had come to represent my home team, and my pride and confidence in the Ravens only increased with the volume of cursing. At the end of the walk to the stadium, I only wished it had been more intense so that the victory would be even more sweet at the end. Obviously, the parallel to being a Christian ends here, as the Ravens lost in such a disappointing fashion to the Steelers in the 4th quarter.

But as Christians, we can read to the end of the Book and know the final outcome. This doesn’t mean we should talk trash to non-believers or be in-your-face about how we are right and they are wrong, but it should produce a joyful attitude toward persecution. Walking through Pittsburgh toward the stadium, I didn’t want to hide my jersey under my coat, even if it was freezing out! I welcomed the insults and mockery because I was confident in my team and wanted everyone to know who I thought was going to have the final victory. What if we took this approach to our faith? I’m not talking about putting on a cheesy Christian t-shirt that says something like “Abreadcrumb and Fish” or “A Blood Donor Saved My Life”, and I’m not talking about blinging out with cross-shaped Silly-Bandz. But what if we walked onto our college campuses and classrooms with a bold, confident stance to represent Christ to atheistic professors and classmates. What if we didn’t try to hide our Christian beliefs and convictions from our bosses and co-workers in the name of “building relationships,” when we’ve been “building” them for years with only subtle references to God here and there? What if we welcomed ridicule for the sake of Christ and so that others might know God? What if we know Who is going to win in the end, and we’re hiding our jerseys?

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“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” – John 20:24-25, NIV

Have you ever thought, “Wow, it would have been so much easier to follow Jesus if I was one of the disciples Christ himself called in person?” They got to spend every day with him, watching him bring dead people back to life, seeing him fix paralysis, blindness, muteness, leprosy, discharges, and just about every other type of medical infirmity one could think of. They would have seen him command demons to leave people, raging gusts and gales to subside peacefully, cripples to walk, and children to come to him. They would have listened as he preached publicly the Sermon on the Mount, told countless parables, and prayed for many. His closest disciples would have seen Jesus affirmed by the other two Persons of the Trinity at the baptism, seen him transfigured on the side of the mountain, and seen him cause Peter to walk on water. This seems like a convincing enough record to conclude that if we were there, we wouldn’t have been Thomas! It seems so shocking to think one could be by Jesus’ side for so many years, to learn from him, to see him work in so many incredible ways in one’s life, and yet not believe everything he promises.

But isn’t that exactly what we do sometimes? We as Christians have seen God grant us precious salvation, and we’ve been there as he’s transformed our lives from death to life. We’ve experienced the Holy Spirit moving in our lives to make us more like Christ over the years. That same Holy Spirit enlivens the Scriptures to us so that we know the truth the accounts of Jesus’ ministry, leaving us with just as much reason as any of the disciples to hold fast to the truth of Jesus’ promises. So what was it that caused Thomas’ doubt? I think he lost sight of history. I think he forgot about all the incredible work Jesus had done and all the promises he had already fulfilled. I think we like giving “Doubting Thomas” a hard time for being so faithless, but to tell you the truth, I think we lose perspective so many times in the same way he did.

Looking back, I can see God’s faithful intervention in my life at the young age of 5 or 6 to redeem my life from sin. I can see him providentially giving me parents that love Him to guide me in making my life about Christ, and a faithful church to help me grow. I’ve seen Him comfort me through grief, encourage me through near-depression, rescue spiritually the lives of dear friends from a doomed path, provide me with 2 years in a Christian school with incredible influences, and sustain me through two-and-a-half years on a campus that mostly doesn’t care about God. I’ve seen him heal diseases and injuries, and bless me with the fellowship of so many wonderfully godly people. In moments of extreme testing, such as severe loss, physical or emotional pain, or even overwhelming stress, it can be the simplest thing in the world to neglect the thought of any of the aforementioned blessings. Suddenly, Thomas’ mindset of “I’ll believe it when I see it” becomes less and appalling and more appealing, as the future becomes the standard by which God’s grace is measured rather than his past goodness. Praise God that he forgives shortsighted people, and that his lovingkindness does not have a foggy memory!