Question. Who said, “Love your enemies”? If you said, “Jesus,” you are correct, but, who said it first? If you said, “Mo Tzu, the Chinese contemporary of Confucius,” you would also be correct. Who knows? There might be several others who have said love your enemies. The prophet Jeremiah comes close when he tells the people to pray for the welfare of the city, when the city in question is actually the city of the Israelite’s enemy. Does the possibility that there might be multiple answers to the question challenge what you thought to be the one true answer?
Does it raise doubts about what you know, or think you know?
Is doubting such a bad thing? Put another way, is it acceptable for a person of faith to have doubts about his or her faith?
I would submit that doubting is an important aspect of one’s faith. That’s because faith demands that we trust in things we cannot explain or prove, or even understand at times. Rev. Eugene Peterson paraphrased Hebrews 11:1-2 this way:
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.”
Faith, this firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living, is what sustains people despite all the evidence to the contrary. Faith allows room for doubt.
Yet many who claim to have faith seem to have based that faith on the assumption that facts and proofs are available. In other words, some base their faith in certitude. They are certain about what they believe. They make no room for doubt. And too often this leads to judgmentalism and hypocrisy.
Something I have said, and written before, is that I have “bet my life” on the teachings of Jesus. For me that is a statement of faith. My faith tells me that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. Emmanuel. God with us. My faith tells me that Jesus was crucified, and died and that three days later he rose from the dead, a sign that humankind’s bondage to the sin of idolatry and death had come to an end. My faith tells me that God continues the work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, building God’s kingdom here on earth, because one day God will make God’s dwelling here on earth, a renewed and transformed earth, and we humans will reclaim our original work of caring for creation.
I cannot prove that any of this is true. To be sure, there is evidence that this is true. But what is often evident is not always based in fact or proof. (Maybe that is why Jesus told us we must approach God like little children).
On my desk, and it has been on the desks I have sat at for the past 20 years of ministry, is a poem by Robert Frost. It is a constant reminder of the wonder and mystery of God. A God we can only know through faith:
I often see flowers from a passing car
that are gone before I can tell what they are.
I want to get out of the train and go back
to see what they were beside the track.
I name all the flowers I am sure they weren’t;
not fireweed loving where woods have burnt—
not bluebells gracing a tunnel mouth—
not lupine living on sand and drouth.
Was something brushed across my mind
that no one on earth will ever find?
Heaven gives its glimpses only to those
not in position to look too close.
— Robert Frost
The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.