Three Pathways To Love and Faith
After observing - and participating in - my daughter's wedding, I found myself wondering, 'How does this happen? How does anyone get to this point? How does love work?'. Although marriage is a destination many people reach, the process of how they get there can be quite different. Faith works in a similar way.
Look at these three kinds of love:
- Love at first sight: this is quick and instantaneous, spontaneous and passionate. Just one look, and you know this is the person. They cannot know the object of their love deeply, but the feeling provides the motivation to take it to the next level.
- Love at second sight: this is when there is a shift a person whom you’ve known a long time: a light goes on, and they become more than a friend. It took a second look before you were convinced this was the right person.
- Love that hesitates: this is eventual love: maybe because someone has been hurt, or they have a fear of rejection, they refuse to move forward until they have some definite, absolute assurance that this is for real.
When we read the discovery of the empty tomb as described in John 20:1-29, we encounter three faith journeys similar to the love journeys I just described.
- Faith at first sight: all it took for John to believe was to see the empty tomb. He didn't understand deeply, but he believed quickly. In John 20:8, it says that he 'saw and believed'. Some people don't take much convincing; they hear the gospel and believe it. This is the child-like faith Jesus lauded: like a trusting child, some people connect the dots quickly, even though their faith is somewhat uninformed.
- Faith at second look: Mary was a rationalist; she tried to fit the evidence of the empty tomb into categories she already had. The problem is that she didn't have a category called 'resurrection'. So when she encountered the empty tomb, she assumed this meant that someone had taken his body away. Even when she met Jesus, even when he was standing in front of her, because she assumed he was dead, she didn't recognise him as Jesus. It was only when he called her name that she recongised him. Some people don't believe until they have a personal encounter with Jesus.
- Faith that hesitates: Thomas was an empiricist - he needed hard evidence. He was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared and was unwilling to believe based on their testimony. He was absolutely unwilling to move beyond his doubt until he encountered the resurrected Lord. Once he did, however, he believed as strongly as he had doubted and made one of the great faith declarations of the New Testament: 'My Lord and My God' (John 20:28).
It doesn't matter how we come to faith, and you shouldn't worry that you don't have the same wiring as someone else. If you are more like Thomas, and your friend is more like John, you may find this frustrating: how can they believe so easily? Or if you believe quickly, and your friend seems to take forever to come around, you can find yourself wondering, 'Are they EVER going to get it?' The point is that Jesus makes room for all three personalities.
Here's the big idea: the common denominator of all three kinds of faith is that they have to do with Jesus. All three of them were either pursuing the resurrected Lord, or hanging out with his people.
For Christians who have already believed, this means that we have to be comfortable making space for people who are still processing the good news of Christ. Where was Thomas? He was with the disciples: they didn't chase him away because he was skeptical; they made room for him, and then Jesus met him.
As we look around us, there are all kinds of people on all kinds of faith journeys. We want to make room for everyone to explore, and encourage them as they are moving towards Christ. There is no greater experience in the world than meeting the resurrected Lord of Glory.