Hebrew writer said (6)
I mentioned that Friedrich Nietzsche roasted Christianity for creating wimps and snivelling cowards. He said the Christian leaders took the life out of life; they made ambition and strength a crime and called grovelling and submission virtue. He called people to resist that blood-sucking religion and urged them not to neglect the hero in their souls. Poor Nietzsche was wrong in many things but in an evangelical Western world that’s awash with ceaseless sympathy, a tireless proclamation that woos people and a God who (it seems) will just weep with us as soon as our bottom lip trembles—in light of that N had a call that needs to be given a hearing.
The Hebrew Christians are depressed, church attendance is down, they’re missing the comfort of their old and familiar environment and they’re bitterly disappointed that the dream of fulfilled promises was greater than the fulfilment they were experiencing in Jesus Christ. What do you say to such people? Beyond words of assurance, I mean.
Should there be compassion and gentleness? Well of course, and those that give it should give it without apology; but there should be words that put heart in the people, words that take their trouble seriously without making it appear that “trouble” is the last word. There should be words so spoken to real sufferers that help them to face bravely and hopefully—yes, hopefully!—what it is that they endure day after day.
[As I write this I’m half afraid that some tormented soul might read it and think I am trivialising his/her trouble. With my heart on its knees I vow before God I mean to do no such thing. I’ve seen troubled lives and it makes me impatient with those that act and speak as though inconvenience or acute but past trouble is a lifelong purgatory. That kind of trouble is nothing like the awful and obscure “long, long patience of the plundered poor.” And like every other person that has a heart I’m sickened by predatory wealth and power. What our strength and efforts cannot change God swears he will change and one day all wrongs will be righted in the fullest sense of that phrase.]
In the meantime, to dispirited people who know what suffering means the Hebrew writer said was this: “In your struggle...you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:4)
Can you imagine saying that to a complaining modern Western congregation and can you imagine the reaction it would get? And if the assembly actually was having a tough time you’d be accused of being heartless! Strange Hebrew writer, who can say such a thing and in the same breath call them “beloved” (agapetoi) in 6:9. How did he dare to speak that way to people who knew what it was to have suffered loss for Jesus Christ (see 10:32-34)?
How do you suppose his 12:4 has come to sound so alien to us?
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.