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What is Faith?
Kelly Jahn
Kelly Jahn

We toss the word “faith” around quite a bit in the church.  But what do we REALLY mean by it? Well, there’s a pretty popular story that comes up quickly after the resurrection. It’s found in the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John. It’s the story of Doubting Thomas.

Thomas isn’t with the other disciples when Jesus first returns to them. And when the other disciples excitedly tell him about Jesus being among them, Thomas responds by doubting: “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.” Now this may be a little over the top for proof, but Thomas is just saying that he needs to see it for himself.  

In my eyes, this isn’t “faith”, it’s “experience”. Faith would be joyfully taking what the other disciples told him as the truth… because Jesus TOLD them it would happen. Thomas wasn’t able to believe. He did believe that Jesus was Messiah, but just couldn’t believe that he could come back from the dead.  

Let’s go back a step for a minute, though. What was going on with those other disciples when Jesus appeared to them? They were locked into a room because they were afraid! Where was their faith? We never really question that. They got to SEE Jesus. Yet, it is Thomas who’s called the Doubter. Now it might be different if they had been expectantly waiting for Jesus’ words to be fulfilled. But no, we’re told that they were hiding and fearful. That’s when Jesus comes among them.

Now if you read on, you know that Jesus comes to Thomas later and allows him to touch the nail holes and put his hand in his side. Jesus commands him to “Stop doubting and believe”.

That’s a good message for us today! Stop doubting and believe! Faith is a belief in things that aren’t seen… that can’t be proven to the 100% level… that we have to trust in. Certainly, we can explain things intellectually and prove things up to a certain point. But there’s still a gap. It’s a gap that only faith can fill.  

Hebrews 11:1 tells us about faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

I believe in the promises of Jesus. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit moving among us and empowering us. I believe in life everlasting. Do you?

— Reflections appears regularly on the religion page. The column features a variety of local writers, coordinated through the Monroe Area Clergy Group. Kelly Jahn is pastor of the Juda Zion Community Church.