Love believes all things

Doubting Thomas by Carl Bloch, 1881

“Love believes all things…”
A Message on John 20:24-29
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
May 27, 2022
By Doug Wintermute

1 Corinthians 13:7b (NRSV)
“[Love] believes all things…”

John 20:24-29 (NRSV)
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

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Today we continue our journey through the “love chapter” of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, by exploring Paul’s words that love “believes all things.”

Now on the surface it might seem like Paul is telling us that we are to believe everything we see, hear, or experience without any discernment, just taking everything at face value even if that means being gullible.

I don’t think that’s what it means, though. There are dangers in believing everything.

For example, when I get an email from a Nigerian prince saying that because I am a good person they want to give me 30 percent of $30 million (is that $900,000?), I know better than to give them my bank account information even though he says they need it in order to transfer the money to me. (Yeah, right.)

I know that the soap or hair products I use won’t make me handsome, that some of the “diet” products have just as many calories as the regular ones, and that in spite of seeing his photo with these words on Facebook, that Abraham Lincoln did not say, “The problem with quotes found on the Internet is that they often are not true.”

I don’t think that’s what Paul means when he says, love “believes all things.” (If it was, he would have posted it on the Internet, right?)

I believe Paul is talking about spiritual matters.

While most English translations of the Bible use the word “believes” (or “believeth,” in the King James Version), others, like NIV, say love “trusts all things.”

Because we live in a very scientific world we have a hard time believing or trusting in things that cannot be seen or be proven. We want quantifiable, specific, unequivocal, explicit proof of something before we will believe it. And in the scientific world it has to be replicated by other people before it will be accepted as true.

But when we take that type of scientific method and apply it to our faith lives we find ourselves frustrated. We want quantifiable, specific, unequivocal, explicit proof for our faith, and we get disappointed when we can’t find those proofs.

In the upside-down and backwards world of God, though, faith is believing without knowing. And there is a higher sense of reasoning to it. If spiritually we knew everything, if we had all the spiritual answers to all of life’s spiritual questions, then wouldn’t we BE God? And that’s a big no-no.

Hebrews 11:1 gives us the answer with a definition of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith is the reality of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

I think this is what Paul is telling us in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says that love “believes all things.” We are to believe the things revealed to us through God’s Holy Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit, and we are to trust in him, even if we don’t know the details.

In the Gospel of Mark we find in the 9th chapter the story of a man bringing his son to the disciples. The boy had an evil spirit and would have convulsions and hurt himself. He also could not talk. The man asked the disciples to heal the boy, but they were unsuccessful in doing so. The man then asks Jesus to heal him.

Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith and then asks that the boy be brought to him. The father tells Jesus that the boy has had this condition all his life, and that he has suffered injuries as a result.

The father then begs Jesus, “…if you are able to do anything, help us! Have compassion on us!”

Jesus said to him, “If you are able! All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:23-24

Jesus rebuked the spirit and it came out of the boy. But today I want to focus on what the father said: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Sometimes it’s difficult to believe when you can’t see.

Our scripture from the Gospel of John today tells us the story of one disciple who had trouble believing. Thomas, who through this experience earned the nick-name, “Doubting Thomas,” was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them.

The disciples who were there told Thomas of the experience, but Thomas didn’t believe them. He did, indeed, doubt.

And why shouldn’t he? He knew that Jesus had been killed on the cross. The Roman soldiers didn’t mess around when it came to killing people by crucifixion. They were well-practiced in the process, and by all accounts, including the soldiers and officials, Jesus was dead. His body was taken down and put into a tomb, with a huge rock put over the entrance. No pulse, no breath, but dead.

So when he hears the disciples talking about Jesus appearing to them, he finds it hard to believe. It wasn’t provable back then. The disciples didn’t make a video and post it on tik-tok or Facebook. There were no photos, no quantifiable, specific, unequivocal, explicit proof that Jesus was alive. Just the word of the disciples.

As humans our pride often makes us say things and do things that we normally wouldn’t say or do. I think that may be the case here with Thomas. He makes a bold statement, metaphorically drawing a line in the sand. He won’t believe unless he not only sees, but feels the piercings of Jesus with his own hands.

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Seeing is not going to be enough for Thomas. He demands two senses, sight and touch, before he believes that Jesus is alive. He demands two different forms of proof. Nothing the disciples could tell him would change his mind.

A week later Jesus shows up and invites Thomas to indeed place his hands into Jesus’ wounds. Now I think it’s important to point out that Thomas doesn’t do it. The scriptures have no mention that he got up and did what he demanded as proof of Jesus being alive. Just the presence of Jesus was enough to humble him down to his inner core.

Thomas is at a loss of words. He doesn’t say, “Okay, now that I see I believe.” No. All he can say is, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas is overwhelmed with emotions. Words fail him. The only words that come out are “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus then says something very important: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

As Christians I think that is a very important scripture to shape our faith. While Jesus is God and is capable of doing whatever he wants, more than likely you and I will never experience the presence of the physical, earthly Jesus. And I’m okay with that. I hope you are, too.

Remember the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So if we could see the physical Jesus, we wouldn’t need faith. Faith is believing without seeing.

And I think that’s what Paul was referring to when he wrote that love “believes all things.” When it comes to faith matters, our faith allows us to believe without seeing, without having quantifiable, specific, unequivocal, explicit proof. We believe, help our unbelief.

Faith is not science. Faith operates by a separate set of heavenly rules, not earthly ones.

So why is that important? I think this past week gives us a good example of the importance of faith. An 18-year-old man entered an elementary school and killed 22 people, most of them young elementary students. It shocks us to hear of such evil in our world, and especially in our state.

How do we react to such horror? Is God really in control? If so, why would he allow something like this to happen? Can we believe without seeing?

While there is much debate and finger pointing going on in the aftermath of the horrible event, there is a deeper and just as disturbing struggle occurring on the spiritual level.

There is sin and evil in our world. As Christians, we are to fight against the forces of sin and evil. We are not to avoid the struggle, but do everything we can to fight against sin and evil in our world.

In the liturgy we use for baptisms, those being baptized (or their parents/sponsors) are asked, “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?”

Love “believes all things.” Through faith we are to believe that God does give us the power to fight as hard as we can and in as many ways as we canagainst the spiritual forces of wickedness, evil, injustice, and oppression. We know that Jesus tells us he is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is the truth. We are to repent of our personal sin and live our lives like our savior, Jesus Christ.

So my challenge to you is to believe when you can’t see. Trust in the Lord, knowing that love “believes all things.” Even in the face of unspeakable horrors, we are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ and our faith provides the power to change the world one person at a time. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” – Hebrews 12:1b-2a

And be careful trusting those quotes from Abraham Lincoln on the Internet.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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