We’ve all been told “no” at some point in our life. But what’s worse than being told “no,” is being told “no” with no explanation. It’s happened to all of us. In fact, we’ve been told all kinds of things our entire lives without being offered explanations for them by our parents, teachers, bosses, and even the church. People we know and love taught us what to believe, often without giving a good reason as to why we should believe it. This has resulted in a borrowed faith and coached convictions. When we grew up it resulted in doubts and questions.
The religious system wasn’t very welcoming for most of our questions. If you had the bravery to ask you may have heard, “because the Bible says so,” or “it’s just what we believe, and we don’t question it.” We were met with passionate stories, childish answers, and dire warnings against the dangers of doubt. The system told us to “have faith” and press on, even when the answers don’t make sense, aren’t there, and the facts seem against you. But faith isn’t the presence of blind certainty or the absence of doubt. Our doubts, when we are brave enough to ask the questions and driven enough to chase the truth, are not to be doubted.
1. Religion tends to be about being correct and being certain, with little tolerance for doubts and questions. Through our lives many of us have encountered that response to our own doubts. Have you ever experienced that for yourself? What was your doubt/question and what was the response? How did that impact you?
2. In John 20 we encounter the story of Thomas. When the other disciples tried to tell and convince him of the resurrection he wouldn’t believe without proof, earning him the nickname Doubting Thomas. Even though he had his doubts the story goes one to tell us that John remained with them. Thomas was able to belong before he believed. If you were in the disciples position, would you have been able respond to Thomas in the same way? Why or why not?
3. Why do so many churches and people choose to cast people people out when they believe differently? What are some of the tensions or difficulties that arise when we allow people to belong before they believe?
4. We all wrestle with questions and doubts. In your life what have been some of your major questions or doubts regarding faith? Did you ever find an answer/resolve to your questions? If so, what was it? If not, are you pursuing one?
5. What was the last belief you had that changed?
6. Peter would later write, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” What would your answer be, if you have one?
Sometimes we will only get the answers we have been looking for, when we dare to ask the questions we’ve been afraid of. Figure out the “why” behind your “what,” chase after your doubts, and give others the freedom and grace to chase after their own.
Allow others to belong before they believe.