Nicodemus: Answers to Your Secret Questions
Today we introduce a new Horizon column that answers your honest questions about Christian faith and life. It is brought to you by Ben Patterson, members of the RS faculty -- and you.
Every community has rules -- and the unwritten rules are usually more powerful than the written ones. One of the unwritten rules on most Christian college campuses is that doubt is to be confessed privately, not expressed publicly.
This rule has its benefits. It helps us get through presentations, lectures, sermons, and encounters in the DC. But it is a cruel rule to impose on people who are being stretched with the implications of Christian faith, challenged with the problems of Christian faith, and confronted with the varieties of Christian faith. When you feel like your world is upside-down, etiquette tells you to say you're fine. When a teacher, pastor, or respected friend makes a claim you can’t yet accept, her authority keeps you quiet. When you have to get something off your chest, you've been taught to do it with gossip: "Hey, did you believe what he was saying this morning?"
And what if the questions remain unanswered, the doubts fester, the murmuring grows, and the problems are never solved? That awful question is the inspiration for a new Horizon column we're calling "Nicodemus."
Why name it that? In honor of you, the inquirers and readers. Here's our thinking:
Things are happening quickly for Jesus in John chapter 2. John the Baptist has testified that he is the lamb of God. Jesus has turned water into wine. He has cleared the temple at Passover. Momentum is on his side: His signs are turning many into believers. Jesus has followers -- and he already has enemies too. In some circles, it's already uncomfortable to be against him, and in others, already dangerous to be with him.
Yet there are people who don't fit easily in either camp. Some are impressed with Jesus, but have serious problems with a guy who's just declared that their temple is history. Others are suspicious, but intrigued. Others follow him, but secretly; or follow him publicly, but quietly dissent. He even puzzles his own disciples.
We hear about one of these uncomfortable people in John 3: a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus by cover of night to tell him he's impressed, but wants to know more. You might expect Jesus to tell him to quit being a chicken and come back during business hours. Instead, Jesus honors Nicodemus with an answer so clear that it practically summarizes the entire Christian faith.
Maybe you're a Nicodemus, impressed but unconvinced. Or a Simon Peter, convinced but confused. Or a Mary, bitter and desperate. Or an Andrew, critical but quiet. Or a Thomas, skeptical but still affiliated. What would you ask, if you could ask it anonymously?
Still don't fit the paradigm? Maybe you're a John, eager but tactless. Or a James, related but worried. Or a Martha, dutiful but resentful. Or a Pilate, cynical and bemused. Or a Saul, zealous and hostile. What would you ask, under cover of night?
Jesus won't be writing in. (He's the speaking type anyway.) However, your campus pastor and members of the RS faculty would love to respond to your honest questions with honest answers. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will keep your name in confidence as we publish the question and response here in The Horizon.