We have a real problem in our house, perhaps a problem that you can relate to in some way.
Ever since Paden started elementary school, Emily and I have helped him with his homework and it has been a pretty good experience over the years.
We've watched Paden move from a kid who couldn't read to a student that not only reads well but is also becoming a good writer. We've helped him learn how to add and subject and eventually multiply and divide. We have seen him and helped him with science projects and art projects. And to be honest it's been pretty affirming to me as a parent to know that I have played a role in his learning.
But this year things have changed. He has been bringing home stuff that I have no idea how to do. It's not that I've never known how to do it; it's that I have completely forgotten how to do it. And I am not talking about complex stuff - I'm talking about basic stuff, like simple equations and fractions - stuff that I was actually pretty good at in middle school. Stuff that honestly bored me after a while because I was ready to move on to more complex stuff.
But because I never kept these basic concepts fresh in my mind and found ways to apply them every day of my life, I have forgotten how to do them and as a result, I don't know whether Paden is doing them right or wrong. I can't discern the difference.
It's the same thing spiritually.
- When we don't keep basic biblical truth's fresh in our minds and allow them to continuously transform us by living them out in our everyday lives - than we run the risk of forgetting the foundation of our faith and as a result we become unable to discern the difference between right and wrong.
This is what the author of Hebrews is boldly shouting in this section of Hebrews. His audience is right on the edge of making a bad decision and as a result losing their faith because they have forgotten the basic truths of the gospel. They had not allowed these truths to transform their lives.
Have you ever been in a conversation when the person you are talking to suddenly switches topics? It certainly catches your attention, doesn't it?
This is exactly what the author of Hebrews has done here. In the previous verses the author is talking about Jesus as a high priest in the order of Malchizedek - which would have woken up the Jewish audience because Malchizadek is an important figure in Jewish culture and this audience, being Jewish, were well versed in OT scripture and understood the tradition of the priesthood.
So, when the writer says the name Malchizadek, even those who had started to tune out this lengthy sermon, would have perked up to hear what he had to say . . .
And that is when the writer stops and he says . . .
"We have much to say about that but it's hard to explain because you are slow to learn"
He is saying, "I have some really good stuff for you to chew on but you are not ready for it because you have chosen to be slow in your learning".
The root word here that has been translated "slow to learn" is "nothros" which means, "sluggish, dull, dimwit, negligent or lazy". So, as you can see, he is not trying to sugar coat his thoughts about this Christian community.
He is trying to be honest with his frustration by saying, "in light of your long term involvement in the church, I'm frustrated that you have become lazy and negligent in basic biblical truths."
And what makes him even more frustrated is that they should be teaching other people these basic truths but instead, they have to be taught them all over again."
You see, these people knew the foundational truths of scripture but because they did not allow them to transform their lives and define who they were - they had forgotten them.
And so rather than being spiritual leaders - who should be sharing these truths with others, they have regressed to becoming more like spiritual infants, who still have to be nourished by milk and are not ready for solid food.
He is saying that they are immature and he is telling them that it is time to move from the Kid's table to the adult table. It is time for you to become spiritually mature.
And with that, he has given us a definition of what it means to be spiritually immature.
The spiritually immature
- Choose not to listen to the word of God because they are slow to learn, negligent, and lazy when it comes to basic biblical truths.
- Choose not to apply the word of God to their lives and allow it to transform them and define who they are.
- Are not ready for the more complex theology of scripture because they have yet to grasp the basic foundational truths.
Then he goes on to define what it means to be spiritually mature. Those who are ready for solid food.
- The spiritually mature constantly put to use what they have learned - they are continuously training and living out their faith in the context of their every day lives.
- They don't just come to church when it fits into their schedule. They don't just pick and choose what they want to hear from the sermon. They don't just skim through their bibles as if it were some kind of self help book that only applies to them when they need help in some area of their life.
- Spiritually mature people long for theological depth and allow what they have learned transform their lives.
- Spiritually mature people don't ask what does this scripture say . . . they also ask, what am I going to do about it? . . . And who can I tell about it?
And the mark of one who is spiritually mature is discernment.
They can distinguish good from evil. In other words, they know how to make the right choices when confronted with critical decisions. The wool cannot be pulled over their eyes because they have the everyday training that has conditioned them to make the right choices.
And the author of Hebrews is challenging his audience to become spiritually mature. It is time to move from the kids table to the grown up table.
So, he say's
"therefore, (since I have some really good theological stuff I want to share with you) . . .
. . . leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity"
When the author suggests they leave the elementary truths of the faith behind, he is not suggesting that the elementary truths are indispensable.
What he is saying is "now that you know the ABC's let's put some words together."
Now that you have a theological understanding of God's basic principles, let's move on to a new level of commitment where you put your theology to practice and allow it to shape you and when you are faced with critical decisions, you will make the right choice.
Mark Shaw in his book Doing Theology with Huck and Jim: Parables for Understanding Doctrine, tells this story of Huck and Jim climbing aboard their raft, embarking on a life free of restraint. Having listed all the aspects of their lives they would not miss, the dialogue continues.
"What'd you bring for food? I'm hungry." Huck asked.
Jim unwrapped his bedroll. His worldly wealth was contained in it. Immediately it was all laid out in full view. There was a hat and some fruit, a pair of socks, a rabbit's foot and a book. Jim tossed Huck a piece of fruit.
"What'd you bring a book for?" asked Huck with a tone of irritation.
"T' read," said Jim, rolling up the blanket again. "What else a book good for?"
"Didn't think you could read," Huck said and then wished he hadn't.
"I can read," Jim responded with intense seriousness, gazing into the night.
"What kinda book is it?" Huck asked.
"Book ‘bout theology," Jim said, his voice trailing away.
"Theology! I hate theology almost as much as I hate schools and rules," Huck said, and emphasized the point by spitting into the river. "What good is a theology book on a trip like this?"
Jim was silent for a long time before he answered. "Trip like this is long. Lotta things gonna happen. Might come in handy."
Might come in handy, indeed!
Life is a journey and our beliefs, affect the way we live, the relationships we keep, and the commitments we make or break. And if we are deep in the faith and nurtured on biblical truth, we are better prepared to make the right decisions - decisions in line with perseverance.
The question is, are we willing to dive into the deep theological truths of God's word and allow our theological understanding to shape us both as individuals and as a church that is just beginning its journey.
The author of Hebrews finishes with these words of confidence, "God permitting, we will do so"