Sunday, May 24, 2015

Of two minds. . .

The etymology of the word “doubt” is from the Latin word dubius meaning “uncertain” (also a word in English).  Look more deeply, however, and you find the word rooted in the Latin word duo (two). Dubium means a choice between two things. Another way of looking at this is to compare doubt with double, a word that comes from the same Latin root (dubius). To entertain doubts is to be undecided, to have two minds on the matter.

This is useful because it well describes us as Christians today.  We say we want the truth but the truth is we run after every falsehood that appeals to our minds and hearts.  We say we want to be confident of that truth but we allow every naysayer to disarm this truth and leave us with uncertainty.  We say we want to hold on to that which is larger than the moment and even eternal but we cave to the whim of desire nearly every chance we get.  We insist that we are our own people and go our own way but seldom risk this lonely path without the support of others.  We insist we are individuals but we walk in herds -- in step with those ahead of us even when we fear they are going the wrong way.

We are like this not only in the matter of religion and faith but life itself.  We love and hate our jobs.  We love our friends but spend most of our time with them filtered through media.  We love healthy food but give into our guilty pleasures.  We honor people of principle but we tend to surrender our principles on the altar of desire and go for what feels good.  We want accountability in government but only if our politicians tell us what we want to hear.  We want the rule of law to apply equally unless we are guilty of an infraction and then we have all sorts of reasons, excuses, and justifications why it should not apply to us.

I am just as guilty as the rest of us.  Doubt is the fruit of sin.  Before it stains us with guilt, before it marks us for death, before creation has become a battleground, and before God became our enemy, it all began with simply doubt.  Did God really say. . . Does the Word of God really mean. . . Does God really want you to. . .  These became the cracks filled quickly with guilt, shame, regret, and bitterness.  We became of two minds toward God back in Eden and it has not changed.

The Christian is the new person, created in Christ Jesus from the waters of new birth in Baptism, as a child of God and heir of salvation in whom the Spirit lives, works, and speaks.  But the old Adam has not shut up and continues to plant doubt in our minds about God's promises, His reliability, His trustworthiness, and the certainty of His grace. 

These doubts either drive us into the arms of Christ or out of them.  No one is ever brought to more certainty by abandoning the fellowship of God's people gathered around the Word and Table of the Lord.  No one is ever made more secure in the arms of God's grace by getting what they want, what they pray for, or what they think will make their lives perfect.  Adversity does have the power to drive us from the sufficient grace of God but it also has the power to drive home the truth that this sufficiency is the only security we know this side of glory.

We lie to ourselves by insisting God would not want us to suffer and so we indulge in what we know is evil and wrong -- choosing a moment of sinful pleasure over an eternity of joy.  We lie to ourselves that if God really loved us then all these bad things would not be happening to us -- choosing to believe that God's purpose is merely the clean up crew who fixes our own self-indulgent wrongs and the struggles of living in a sinful world clearly at odds with His purpose and plan.  And then we feel justified in rejecting God while finding that such rejection has not authored any word of peace for our hearts but only the poisoned fruit of bitterness and despair.

What will you do with your doubts?  That is the question.  Will we stew and fret in them until the only thing we know is uncertainty?  Or will we surrender them to meet the Lord where He will be found -- in the rich green pastures of His Word and the still quiet waters of His Sacraments.  This is what I struggle with every day and, I suspect, it is where you live also.  If I have learned one thing over my life, doubt offers me no refuge, no peace, no promise, no future, and only the most painful regret.  Faith is always a risk but its risk cannot be as empty as the alternative of doubt, despair, and death.

On this Pentecost morning we rejoice that God has sent to us the Spirit of truth to make known to our fearful and double hearts the true Gospel and to break down the walls of our hearts to believe.  On this day we pray as a Church and as individual Christians:  Lord, I believe. . . Help Thou my unbelief.

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