“You’ve got to go to ______; they make the best burger in town! It’s incredible!”
“Oh, you got the ____? Yeah, you should have gotten the ______, that’s awesome. You didn’t get the real ______ experience, so it makes sense you weren’t that impressed.”
You’ve had this conversation. We all have. And because I’ve had this conversation so many times (and have eaten so many burgers in so many restaurants in so many cities in so many states), I’m a bit of a Doubting Thomas when it comes to food recommendations. It’s not that I don’t believe it it’s a good burger, I just highly doubt it’s really /that/ special. I’ve been underwhelmed by too many oversold burgers that are perfectly good burgers.
This is a consequence of many things:
- Our culture’s affinity for superlatives, which largely arises due to our belief that nothing is good enough unless it is better than everything else
- Our obsession with having an opinion (this is practically a religion– unless you have a favorite, a stance, a strong opinion, you must not care, and apathy is always the enemy)
- Our desire to “win” (I’m a better friend/person because I introduced you to_____)
- Our inexplicable need to rank /everything/
Because I generally despise superlatives (it is very rare to hear me say anything is the best, favorite, etc), I have learned to pretty much doubt and ignore. I’ll still go to the restaurant if I don’t have somewhere else I want to go, but I’ll have no expectations whatsoever relating to the quality of the burger. I tend to have the I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it mentality (clearly I spent too long in Missouri); my expectations are mediocre.
But I don’t think I’m alone in this, though. While we as a culture may not be openly antagonistic towards the opinions and recommendations of others, we tend to discount them as perspective and opinion alone.
And we don’t just do this with food. We do it with movies (you aren’t going to believe that Jurassic World stands up in quality to a true Crichton classic just on /my/ say-so, you’ll wait to see it yourself–which you totally should, by the way). We do this with TV shows and books. We do this with sales (“Is it really /that/ good of a deal? Let me look at it”) and sports events and YouTube videos of Keyboard Cat. It’s more than just wanting to experience it for ourselves; it’s more often a desire to /prove it/ to ourselves, and we believe we are the most capable person to make that distinction between what is true and what is untrue.
It’s in our human nature to question and doubt. Faith does not come easily to us. Even young children do not trust freely. Fortunately, our Heavenly Father loves freely and is willing to prove himself to us. Over and over again.
When Thomas missed the disciples’ first meeting with the resurrected Jesus, he doubted. He’s famous for it. He exhibited our natural response to say “I’ll believe it when I see it.” He actually took it a bit further and said, “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 20:25)
I can at least say that I have never demanded to see the cow before slaughter to confirm its grass-fed, free-range status before eating the fancy burger. Thomas was pretty demanding of his proof. But yet, Jesus doesn’t say “well, fine, I don’t need you anyway.” He doesn’t write him off and focus on ‘the faithful.’
No, Jesus shows up.
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus breaks down the door to prove himself to Thomas. And what does he do immediately? He doesn’t discipline him, admonish him or express anger. No, instead he offers him peace! Peace! That would so not be my response. My response would be much more like “it’s not the best burger you’ve ever had?! Man, you must not know anything about a proper burger!”
But no, Jesus calls Thomas to himself, despite of his doubt, despite of his shock, despite of his lack of faith, and offers him his scars, his wounds, to prove to him that He is worth believing. He is willing to walk him out of his doubt and show him that, yes, he really is the best burger in town.
Thomas’ belief was more important to Jesus than his faith. Normally, we think of those two things as effectively the same thing, but here we see the difference. Thomas lacked faith, like most of us do, but Jesus found that it was more important to him that Thomas know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus was worth believing. He chose belief through evidence over faith. So he provided the evidence. He didn’t get angry that Thomas didn’t go to the restaurant; he went himself, bought the burger himself and served it up to him on a silver platter.
BUT this doesn’t mean that we get to just sit around and wait for Jesus to show up and prove his existence to us before we believe. No, certainly not. I won’t deny that he does appear to people and that he has met people in such a way (e.g. Paul, on the road to Damascus), but the reality is that Jesus has chosen to bless those that believe without seeing. Thomas had to forgo this blessing in order to find truth. He lost out on the blessings that could have been in store for him had he chosen to believe without requiring Jesus to show up and prove him wrong. The blessings could be innumerable, but just think of the very basic blessing: you get to experience that burger with pure, unadulterated joy. It isn’t tainted by guilt or shame. Belief isn’t a result of obligation or manipulation. Your experience is sincere and complete.
Don’t pass that up. God is gracious and loves you more than he needs your faith. He would rather be with you than without you. But the blessings will be greater if you don’t ask him to prove himself to you. Your relationship will be stronger. Your joy will be more complete. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.