Overcoming Uncertainty

Eleven years ago I had just graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and the Senior Minister I was serving with encouraged me to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. A radical group of New Testament scholars, operating under the title The Jesus Seminar, had come to town for one of their annual meetings. Their task, as a group of professionals, was to decide which teachings of Jesus actually came from his mouth, and which were made up by the early church. Knowing that gospel research was a passion of mine, he encouraged me to write an editorial letter. The response was beyond anything I expected. Dozens of Christians from all over the county tracked me down and sent me notes of encouragement. I was swamped by phone calls. But I also got some hate mail, including a quasi-death threat letter which had been opened and re-sealed by the FBI with a cover letter stating "the sender is under federal investigation" and not to be afraid. Wonderful. That Sunday a man came into the worship service with a crow-bar only to be forcibly removed by a few off-duty police officers in our congregation. I'm sure little kids watching this thought, "Church rocks man!" An Uncertain Man John chapter three records an incident where a religious teacher named Nicodemus came to Jesus to inquire about spiritual matters. What Nicodemus encountered, or more accurately who Nicodemus encountered, was far from the tolerant, accepting, affirming religious teacher of The Jesus Seminar. Nicodemus told Jesus in verse 2, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." Avoiding any formalities and cutting straight to the heart of the matter, Jesus responded, "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." No ambiguity. No pretense. No uncertainty. No haziness. Jesus went straight to the core of Nicodemus' search with an honest, up-front and unapologetic answer. My how times have changed. Unapologetic Christians Christians today seem so apologetic about their beliefs. The problem is people today are looking for help from people who know that they know that they know. Christians have become so tolerant today of everything; inquirers are looking for people with convictions. In the last three months two of my daughters broke their arms. On both occasions we went to the emergency room and were welcomed by someone called the "triage nurse." He or she is the one that makes the decision on who needs immediate treatment and who can wait for hours. Each time we were struck by the conviction of our triage nurse. She didn't hesitate. Yes. No. Sit. Come in. Wait. Rush. Stop. Not a hint of ambiguity in her voice. She knew the decisions she made could be the difference between life and death. Christians today could benefit from spending a little time in the ER. I know I did.