There’s a scary temptation that is very real to many. The temptation to turn back.
The kind of Christian life we’ve been told is normal and expected may not our describe our actual experience. Troubles and difficulties persist. Personal sin continues. The world is ceaselessly disordered as evil appears to run rampant. What seems to be constant, isn’t the euphoria of what happens in contemporary worship services. Our actual experience can be quite different. When this kind of letdown comes, we say, “Is what I believe even real? Do I want this to be true so much, that I’m making myself believe something false. This life doesn’t look triumphant or victorious. I keep taking hits.”
To the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews, the struggle described above was not foreign. The letter was probably delivered to Christians at Rome, where the marginalized saints there faced significant hardship. When they put their trust in Christ, it was not because it gained them standing with men. In Rome, honor or shame was shared as a group. Any approval from countrymen and family was automatically forfeited when one identified with the testimony of the Christians. A marginalized and persecuted life resulted. Some were harassed and stripped of their property. Some were cruelly used for sport in the Colosseum, literally being fed to wild animals. Others experienced rejection by family for abandoning their religious heritage. And naturally, as we begin reading through the letter, we find a people tempted to turn back to their old groups or ways of life. Was there a better way? What made it worth continuing?
This kind of hardship and struggle is not uncommon. During the upcoming months I’ll be blogging through the book of Hebrews, offering the hope of it’s message to those tempted to turn back. Hebrews bids us to not walk away. It gravely warns us not to. But more than that, it speaks to us, strengthens us, and reassures us. Hebrews says stay. Because Jesus is better. Because Jesus promises better. Because he is strength to those who feel they have no strength remaining.