DayBreaks for 3/30/16 – Sticky Labels
If I were to mention names of historical people to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind about that person, we’d probably come up with a wide range of words for the same people. For example: Genghis Kahn. Or, Benedict Arnold (to the Brits, he may be seen as some kind of hero but we Americans wouldn’t.)
When it comes to Biblical characters, the same is true. For example, if I were to mention Judas, many would write down the word “betray” but not everyone. Some might say “traitor” or “back-stabber”, or simply “apostle”. If I were to mention Peter, some would write down “faith,” but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase “Sons of Thunder,” but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is not much doubt about what folks would write, is there? It would be the word doubt or doubter. We have so closely associated that word with him that someone coined a phrase to describe him: “Doubting Thomas.”
Do you realize that the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas? It is only in John’s gospel that he appears as a distinct personality, but even then he only gets 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.
Yes, he doubted the resurrection and wanted some tangible proof. But when Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them, we quickly forget it what Thomas said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, but we don’t remember him for that. We don’t call him “Courageous Thomas” but “doubting Thomas.” We fail to point out that in the story of Thomas’ doubt we have the one and only place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, My Lord, and my God. Thomas didn’t just say he was a teacher/rabbi. He didn’t just call him “My Lord.” Nor did he say, “You are the Messiah.” He said “My God!” It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter.
Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem. We do him a great disservice, I fear. I’m glad he wanted proof. I’m glad someone touched him and felt that he had corporality – that he wasn’t just a disembodied spirit hovering ether-like in a room. There was a purpose in Thomas’ questioning and it was a purpose that helps build our faith, two millennia later.
Have people unfairly captured your “essence” in a single, derogatory word like “ugly”, “stupid”, “dummy”, “fat”, “loser”? I think you’re in very good company!
Have you been guilty of labeling others?
Let’s be careful not to label people unfairly, or better yet, let’s not label people at all. Labels stick – even when they’re grossly unfair.
TODAY’S PRAYER: Our Lord and our God, let us learn from the lesson of Thomas that words and labels stick for even thousands of years, often very unfairly. Let us show the honor and respect to all who are made in Your image. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.