Sometimes when I read from the kids’ Bible to my daughter I can’t help but smile when I see how the stories are filtered in order to be digestible to children. For some reason all the bloody war stories are left out and the Old Testament as a whole is reduced to a few pages altogether. Jesus’s life and ministry gets the most attention. And I think this is natural, since kids couldn’t process all that is in the book (I remember as a kid I used to have one cartoon style Bible that featured all those above mentioned stories as well, and I was quite afraid of it). However, growing up with kids’ Bibles may have contributed to the attitude that many Christians regard Jesus’ life and ministry to be the beginners’ lesson, something you need to get through in order to understand the ‘real’ and ‘deep’ stuff. At least this was how I saw it for some time. As the years went by my attention was drawn from Jesus and the gospels to the epistles and deep theological arguments. I concentrated on learning what the Bible teaches about Christian living for those who ‘really take it seriously’.
Well, the Book of Hebrews argues against this mentality. It shows that Jesus is not only Christianity 101, but the whole purpose and basis for our faith. His message is not something we leave behind with time, but something that we need to give more and more attention to. After the author took time in Chapter 1 to convince us that Jesus is greater than angels, in this second chapter he showcases what this looks like put in practice, and he sets the tone by saying “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
This underlines the very fact I mentioned earlier, that we Christians have a tendency to drift away from the most important thing, to get over Jesus in a sense. Of course we don’t lose our faith in him, but other things become more important. Before we realize our attention is taken from Jesus, and we start to focus more on ourselves – and others around us. The simply faith in Jesus, the hopeful clinging to him is replaced by efforts to perform well according to the law. Performance becomes a basis for evaluating ourselves and others.
This problem is nothing new though. In the Galatian churches there was a certain teaching spreading that although believing in Jesus is necessary when we repent, later we need to mature and start keeping certain points of the law as well. Addressing this issue, Paul writes rather angrily: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Previously he also wrote to them: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” Observing these heavy words makes it obvious that for Paul it was very important that believers remain in the simply faith in Jesus and that they won’t be fooled to think that drifting back under the law is progress in any way.
The Colossians struggled with the very same issue. When Paul wrote to them he said: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith”. He tells them that if they want to grow, they need to keep Jesus in the center. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” – he adds.
Nothing can be of higher importance to Christians than Christ. If you meet someone who looks very deep and spiritual but doesn’t really speak about Jesus you should get suspicious. The early believers were given the title “Christian” which basically meant that people thought they belonged to Christ, were like Christ, some translators even say the word can be dubbed as ‘little Christs’. One thing was quite obvious about them: they were all about Jesus; he was in the center of their lives and message.
This might not be the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear the word ‘Christian’. Do you think we have a chance to turn this around? I believe so if we take the message of Hebrews 2 to our hearts and will make it our only effort to pay most careful attention to Jesus. “Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” – the Bible teaches. Let’s fill our hearts with more and more Jesus, not more theological arguments and religiosity. If anything, this should be in our focus.
Read Hebrews Chapter 2 and thing about these questions:
- Are you still amazed with Jesus, or are you done with him in a sense? Thinking back, what are the key topics in your conversations about spirituality?
- What is your hear full with now? Is there anything you could do today to get more Jesus in there?