This past Sunday we went to church for the second week in a row and after the service, we attended Bible study. Our church calls it Sunday School but I feel silly saying that. The lesson this week was on Luke 5:1-11. I wrote about this previously through one focus but after the lesson in Bible study and reading from the Tao this morning I have new thoughts.
There was a big discussion in Bible study on Luke 5:5, “ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.'” and Luke 5:8, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'” The discussion was on the doubts of Peter.
When Jesus asks Simon or Simon Peter or Peter to let down the nets in deep water he comes across as exasperated and tired. He has worked hard all night with no reward and it can be imagined that all he wants is to go home, but he will do this for Jesus. Then after the miracle of the fish, he falls down before Jesus and asks him to go away from him because he is a sinful man. The discussion and agreement in Bible study were that his sin was doubt.
Christianity is a religion of faith. It is about belief without proof. In mankind, this is one of our biggest struggles. With this fresh in my mind, I was a little surprised when I picked up the Tao this morning and read, “When an average man hears of the Tao, he half believes it, half doubts it.”
The interesting thing about the Gospel According to Luke is it was not written for the religious. It was written for people outside the Jewish faith, the gentiles, to bring them to Christianity. With the Middle East being the crossroads of the world and Judea being the frontier of the Roman Empire it isn’t hard to imagine that ideas would travel east to west and west to east shaping each other as they go.
There is a commonality to human experience, but what does it mean that Simon Peter is an average man? To me, the miracle of the fish embodies the central themes of Christianity. It is about the congregation and needing help. Simon cannot haul in all the fish by himself. They break his nets and start to sink his boats.
As we see this central theme of Christianity we also see doubts. Jesus in his calling of his disciples isn’t calling the best of society. Jesus seeks out those that, for lack of a better term, need him. Simon is a doubtful man. Jesus proves himself to him, and Simon asks him to depart because he is unworthy.
The central theme of the gospels is the washing away of mankind’s sins. It is about forgiveness, and in order to achieve that forgiveness, nothing more than faith in that forgiveness is required. Yet even among the man that will bring the church to the world, there is doubt. Peter is presented as nothing more than an average man, but Jesus still calls him as a disciple and Peter goes on to build his church and spread Christianity to the world.
We are all average in some ways and we all have doubts. It is perfectly fine to be average and to have doubts. We were never meant to be perfect. Whether it is belief in Jesus or the Tao we are allowed our doubts.