Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” John 3:1-4
When I think back to the first time a curse word left my lips, I get a bad taste in my mouth. My mom sticking a bar of soap in my trap as punishment failed to wash this memory from my system. But I think that was the whole point. Dirty words weren't allowed in our household. Neither are they accepted in Christian circles, but I'm not speaking of the ones that get censored on primetime television.
Words like doubt, skepticism, and uncertainty are the equivalent of muttering a curse word inside the church. Questioning one's beliefs requires letting go of certainty and control. If you admit you have doubts, you get slapped with the label of less than or immature. When it comes to matters of faith, many of us wrongly assume that the strength of one's faith is dependent on how free it is of doubt.
Today's passage (John 3:1-21) focuses on a person wrestling with doubt, so much so that they had an intentional encounter with Christ. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, who spent a great deal of time memorizing and studying Scripture. But, even as a religious leader, he couldn't wrap his mind around Jesus - His miracles, and especially, the radical words He spoke. These doubts kept Nicodemus up at night, and one evening he had enough. He needed answers.
In other conversations that Jesus had with Pharisees, He normally didn't spend as much time as He did with Nicodemus. Jesus knew of their jaded hearts and ulterior motives. But, Nicodemus was different. He possessed a real desire to understand the truth. Jesus didn't reprimand Nicodemus for his concerns but pointed him towards the place where life is found, namely Christ himself.
God welcomes our questions and is even okay with our doubts, provided we possess a humble spirit. Although doubt with pride will lead one away from God, doubt with humility will lead you to an encounter with God. The choice is ours in how we respond.
Doubt can become a barrier towards faith and an excuse to stand still or utilized as an opportunity to take a step of faith. Faith is not having all the answers, but being convinced enough to commit. It is our faith that pleases God because faith requires trust and humility. Honest doubt fuels pursuit.
The foundation Christ provides is the only one strong enough to handle our doubts. When we build on this foundation, there is freedom to process our questions and explore our uncertainties. Knowing we are unconditionally loved, we no longer have to be crippled by fear.
Why is honest doubt necessary for an authentic faith?
What are the doubts, fears, and questions that keep you moving forward in your faith?
God, thank you for welcoming my questions and concerns. I will bring you my doubts and fears, knowing that through this pursuit, I will catch a better glimpse of Your heart and mind. Rather than letting my uncertainty cause me to run away from You, I will utilize it to bring me closer to Your side. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.