Saturday 7th November 2020
Hebrews 6: 1 – 12
Therefore let us go on towards perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith towards God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement. And we will do this, if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.
Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation.
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence, so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Sometimes I wonder if whoever wrote Hebrews was attempting to offer some sort of discipleship masterclass. This chapter opens with an invitation to take a step onwards from what they perceive as the basics of the Christian faith to the harder stuff.
Even if this is some sort of masterclass that isn’t a bad thing. A question that I have heard asked is how should those who have come to faith, perhaps through a discipleship course, or by another route be encouraged to grow in their faith. How do we wean children and young people attending our churches or groups led by them from milk to meat? What about those who have been followers of Jesus Christ for longer than they or anyone else might care to remember? What about those who were Christians once, who perhaps had a ‘strong’ faith but who no longer identify with this identity?
Hebrews has uncomfortable words concerning such people, this passage, and others like it, have been used to justify a muscular Christianity where grace and understanding seem markedly absent. It would seem that for those who leave a return is difficult. It feels like this is at odds with Jesus’ own teaching particularly in stories such as that of the Prodigal Son. We might also remember that these words were penned in a time when being a Christian was far from easy (is it ever). The Church was being persecuted.
It is perhaps not surprising that there were some who weighed up their options when times were tough and stepped away. What is worth noticing here is that the faithful remnant within the Church are not asked to make judgements or opinions about those who leave. The passage ends with an invitation to show diligence and to hold on to the assurance of hope shown and offered by Christ but through faith and patience to inherit the promise of life in all its fullness described in and through the life and ministry of Jesus.
God of comings and goings,
it hurts when friends leave,
particularly if they apparently
turn away from you
and your promise of life.
We pray for the ‘prodigals’ of our time.
Give us the gifts and graces
that we need to welcome back.
Strengthen us and help us to grow
in faith and discipleship,
so that when we need to hear hard things
we can do so with open hearts and minds.