Monday, March 31, 2008

Peace be with you.

I read, studied, journaled about, and preached on John 20:19-31. Each time I read various passages I am struck by something new, and this is no different. To summarize the passage, the disciples are locked in a room in fear of the Jews, Jesus appears to them and says “peace be with you,” shows them his scars and says again, “peace be with you.” But Thomas wasn’t with them, maybe he was on a food run or a bathroom break, but Thomas wasn’t around. So when the disciples saw Thomas again, they told him what happened. Thomas was not as enthusiastic as the others, “unless I see, I will not believe.” A week later Jesus appears to the disciples, saying again “peace be with you.” Thomas was there this time, and Jesus went over to him and showed Thomas his scars. At which time Thomas believed with a declaration, “my Lord and my God.” We tend to poke fun at Thomas, even calling him names like “doubting Thomas.” Poor Thomas. The other disciples got to see; Thomas wanted to also.

What struck me as I read, studied, journaled and preached is that Jesus never criticized. There was none of the, “oh you of little faith?” There was no condemnation for their abandonment of him at the time of his arrest, or Peter’s denial. There was no work involved to receive the peace Jesus offered, Jesus simply gave it to them because he loved them. With Thomas there was no criticism of his lack of faith or even words which would exclude him because of his stubbornness not to believe unless he has proof, just words of assurance and peace. This is Jesus with those whom he loves. He wanted to bring them comfort in their time of grief and fear.

Why then, have we through various teachings or doctrines created a ‘fear’ of God? Of course, those who would argue against me would correct me immediately saying we should be in ‘awe’ of God, a reverence and a respect – that idea I have no problem with, and also feel that sometimes we treat God waaayyy too casually. What I grew up with and what I still see today is a ‘fear’ of God. Now, I do not see anyone afraid of Jesus, but I do see Jesus being used to instill fear in others. This seems to function regardless of the denomination. Yet, this is not the God I know. The God I know and lives in the person of Jesus wants us to have peace, to not be afraid, and to love.

When I was little and afraid of the dark, I was told that God wanted me to sleep in peace, and the Bible verse read to me was Psalm 4:8, “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.” God wants us to have true peace; that is what is truly of God. Other teaching to me is erroneous at best and heretical at worst. As followers of Christ we should be about the work of Christ spreading peace in the world of unrest and fear. “‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

How are you living your faith – in fear, in fear making? Think about the words you use when you talk about your faith, do they really bring a sense of peace? Or do they exclude? My friend, David Mercer, quotes Anne Rice in his blog for Easter Sunday (see Deep Calls to Deep link). Anne Rice says, “My belief is total. And I know that I cannot convince anyone of it by reason, anymore than an atheist can convince me, by reason, that there is no God.” Faith isn’t about proving something, faith is about living it. Live in grace and peace.