On almost a daily basis in my preschool class we talk about words and their opposites. A few years ago, when we were talking about opposites, a preschooler asked me what opposite meant. Uhhhhhhhhh….. For the life of me, I could not think of how to define opposites, so I think I said something like, “two things that are very different.” Good enough for the preschooler, but not quite right- curious how others would define it, I asked around, and someone gave me a definition that totally made sense, “Two things that can never happen at the same time.” Much more clear and it’s stuck with me through the years whenever people reference them.
Just this week on Instagram, Rob Bell posted, “For many people, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt aren’t opposites. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that you’re owning your path, engaged, thinking, feeling, that your heart is alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren’t opposites; they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.”
Made sense, but if the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, then what is it? What one thing cannot coexist with faith? I would argue as it is presented in the Bible, the opposite of faith is fear. Fear differs from doubt as doubt means uncertainty, whereas fear is an emotion, it’s without knowledge, thinking something bad could happen. Sometimes fear comes from doubt, but not always. We can have doubt or uncertainty and not have negative emotion that ties them together.
Time and time again, scripture places fear and faith in opposing corners, my favorite being, You of little faith, why are you afraid? Matthew 8:27. This scripture is one way I gut check where my faith lies on a day to day basis. Am I living in fear of how my life will play out OR the opposite, living in faith that God has a plan and will take care of me no matter what happens?
Opposites help us to make meaning of concepts that are difficult, and Jesus speaks often about them in the Bible- love and hate, yourself and others, sick and healed, hungry and full, dark and light. I think all too often we (definitely myself included) try and convince ourselves that we can live harmoniously trying to make opposites coexist in our lives. I think God is sending us a different message- to live out our full faith, we chose one way or the other.
I would love to hear in the comments some opposites you have found in scripture and how that helps guide your understanding of how God wants us to live.
Andrea is an Early Childhood Special Educator, as well as mom to Paxton, 7, and Wyatt, 3. She and her husband Steve, have been members of BUMC since 2009.