The beginning of Christianity was full of challenges. This was reformation. This was a whole New Covenant given a New Testament by a new supernatural Leader with new group of people indwelt by God’s spirit who were going to reform the way life and culture was perceived and lived. They were there for liberation, not domination; contribution, not conquest. It was an upgrade for humanity.
Christianity challenged the norms of existing governments, cultures, philosophies, humanities, religions and societies of that time. These very young Christians and young churches were going to have a hard ride for a while. You can’t be a reformer and stay friends with everyone. They were going to learn by experience difference between the old human power model and the new power of Christ model. They were going to learn firsthand the verse, “Greater is He who is in us (the church) than he that is in the world.”
Such was the narrative of the church and people in the book of Hebrews in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews helps them to navigate tough times they were experiencing. The church in the book of Hebrews was under siege. Members were being imprisoned and “ill-treated.” Some were enduring great sufferings, being made public spectacles of and their property being seized, some were going to jail… (Hebrews 13:3; Hebrews 10:32-34). Ouch…the perfect storm.
These new Christians were really getting bitter about it. They were getting mad at God. “How could He let this happen?” And the people were getting mad at other people too. Maybe they thought everything would be perfect when they became Christians. The outcome of this was many were getting ready to check Christianity in, give it up. They were becoming dull to God. The hurt, bitterness, disappointment, anger and just plain drama, was driving them from God, not to God. They were about to turn off…The God Channel.
The writer of Hebrews notes some signs of becoming dull toward God. They were forsaking the assembling of the brethren, not going to church. (Hebrews 10:25). They were closing their homes to Christians who were strangers and homeless. (Hebrews 13:2). They were forgetting to visit Christians who had been imprisoned unfairly. (Hebrews 13:3). They were letting bitterness destroy their marriages. (Hebrews 13:4). They were looking to the security of their money or the insecurity of the loss of their money and property rather than looking to Jesus. (Hebrews 13:5).
We would probably feel the same way too. That is a lot of ask anyone to go through! But the writer of the book of Hebrews writes them a letter of “exhortation,” not a letter of warning or condemnation. He exhorts them, keep on keeping on! Don’t give up. Christ will turn this mess into a message. Don’t go to the dark side.
The book of Hebrews shows us how we can go to the dark side if we get bitter at God or Christians or churches or Christianity. The first step is drifting from the Word of God (Neglect). “For this reason we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1). The next step is doubting God’s Word. We get hardhearted. We start asking like the snake in the garden… “Hath God said? “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest anyone of you be hardened …” (Hebrews 3:17).
The third step is dullness of God’s word. We become sluggish. “…concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (Hebrews 5:11). The fourth step is despising God’s word… willfulness and caustic. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth…” (Hebrews 10:26). The last step is defying God’s word. That means intentionally refusing to hear. “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.” (Hebrews 12:25).
Drifting…Doubting…Dullness…Despising…Defying. Do you see the progression of slip sliding away from God listed in the ascending chapters?
The church and people had a dilemma. In the midst of the perfect storm, they could draw near or draw back. The Christian life is like riding a bike. Keep pedaling or fall. Our only safety is going on. That’s the main idea of Hebrews…endurance, not shrinking back, persevering, holding fast.
Let me finish with the lettuce (let us) of Christianity in Hebrews 6:18, 12:1 and 12:2. “Let us go on to”… “the hope set before us” (salvation)… “the race set before us” (sanctification), and …“the joy set before us.” (glorification). Storm over, safely in port…on earth or in heaven.
Church-Community Connection is published weekly in 10 newspapers all over the world. Most of these newspapers are local paid subscription newspapers. The goal of these 450 word articles is to build a bridge to the community through humor, wisdom and changing mental perceptions that the community has of the church.