As I read the Bible, the unifying theme that runs from front to back involves humanity struggling with God. People want to live by power while God insists that love is the only way. So as God comes to people, there is an ongoing invitation to embrace the way of love. In this framework, the story appears to conclude on Good Friday with power defeating love. But then comes Easter and love lives on.
So how do people learn to believe in love?
How the Disciples Learned To Believe In Love
Jesus laid the groundwork for the disciples’ belief for the three years they traveled together. But like all of us, they wrestled with what they heard and saw. Ultimately, none of them understand Jesus’ invitation until Peter and John are standing in the tomb. Later that night, Jesus appears to all of them but Thomas and the now-deceased Judas. They too come to believe. It will be another week before Thomas sees and believes.
Often people will disparage Thomas, calling him a doubter, but how is his experience any different from the other disciples? Peter and John had to see burial garments folded up in an empty tomb. The other eight saw the resurrected Jesus in person. In other words, in John’s account, all of those closest to Jesus who came to faith first saw something that gave them a reason to believe. This forces the question of how you and I, as those who do not get to see the tomb or the resurrected Jesus, come to believe in love?
Hearing And Seeing Love
Early in John, Jesus encounters a woman by a well. After a strange conversation that shatters social norms surrounding gender, the woman rushes back into her village talking about her time with Jesus. John then tells us that many people in that village believed because of her testimony. But in the very next verses, John tells us the people of the village reached out to Jesus, spent a couple of days with him, and ultimately told the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.” It seems that even those who first believed just by hearing had their faith enhanced by Jesus’ presence in their midst.
So again, how do we learn to believe in love?
Jesus’ answer appears to come on Maundy Thursday. After taking on the role of a servant and washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus issues a new mandate for them to live by, to love one another. Then he adds on another line that everyone will know they are Jesus’ disciples by their love for one another. In other words, people learn to believe in love when they not only hear about love but see it lived out.
Spiritual Misfits Learning To Believe In Love
Many of us find ourselves embracing the spiritual misfit moniker because we heard about Jesus’ love and found ourselves moved by the message only to not see it lived out in our local church. Or maybe we started in the church and then through reading the Bible encountered a different Jesus than the one we met in our congregation. It is dynamics like these that once prompted Dan Kimball to write, “They Like Jesus, But Not The Church.” Of course, by the church, Dan refers to the institution. The problem is not so much the Church, but the institution’s failure to love as Jesus did.
So where do we learn to believe in love?
We learn to believe in love and see it lived out and experience it for ourselves. Be it among family or friends, in a faith community, or maybe even through a newsletter.