The Inn | University Ministries | University Presbyterian Church | World Deputation

Faith and Law: Reasonable Doubt

A lawyer friend of mine recently shared with me the instructions a jury is given prior to a trial:

A reasonable doubt is a doubt that exists and may arise from the evidence or lack of evidence. It is such a doubt as would exist in the mind of a reasonable person after fully, fairly, and carefully considering all of the evidence or lack of evidence. If, from such consideration, you have an abiding belief in the truth of the charge, you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt.

How does being satisfied beyond reasonable doubt translate to faith? This same friend, who is a prosecuting attorney, talked about reasonable doubt being like a puzzle. She gave the example of a puzzle with a lot of pieces and some of those pieces are missing. She invited me to think of a puzzle that is a picture of a barn. If, without looking at the picture on the box, you can tell it’s a barn, even if there a pieces missing, you probably have enough evidence to make a decision. She pushed back on her own analogy by acknowledging that pieces missing here and there are a lot different than if an entire section of the puzzle is missing, wherein the whole picture is compromised and it is difficult to determine the bigger picture. Bottom line: in the legal realm as it is with faith, certainty is not always attainable, nor is it the ultimate goal. Rather, seeing past circumstantial evidence and seeing the big picture (abiding belief in the truth) is the goal.

When we consider God’s covenant and steady relationship with Israel do we count it as evidence of God’s love? When we think of the grand positives of the Mosaic law do we count it as evidence of God’s love? When we consider the life, death and resurrection of Jesus do we count it as evidence of God’s love? While at times in our faith there are pieces missing and pieces that don’t seem to fit, can we see the big picture of a loving God that seeks unfiltered relationship with God’s creation?

It brings to mind Paul’s words in one of the most beloved chapters of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

There are enough pieces to sustain my faith that God’s love for me is real. While I long to see and know the fullness of the picture of grace, compassion and love of God found in Jesus, I can see enough of the picture to give me great hope.

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