Hebrews is a letter about the developing faith of a people who find themselves persecuted within their community because of Christ Jesus. Childlike faith calls us a standard of unconditional love and forgiveness in four ways like a TUBA: Trusts, Unites, Blesses, and Assurance/Affirms.
Hebrews 13.1-6 ::: Righteous Attitudes
H.O.R.N. = Hospitality, Offering, Righteousness, inspection
The only horn we need to be tooting is the righteousness of Jesus!
The text in chapter 13 begins by addressing our Christian attitudes of mutual love between brothers and sisters in Christ expressed in mutual hospitality to the extent of remembering those who are suffering unfairly in prison through offering visits, prayers, and gifts (13.1-3). It reminds us to live in righteousness by keeping our marriages pure and to resist the love of money (13.4-5). The text affirms that God will never leave us nor forsake us for God is our helper who brings us his blessed assurance (13.5-6). God remains with us in times of personal attacks from others (Psalm 6, Joshua 1.5).
The text invites us to hold the line on righteous behavior. It drops a plum bob right in the middle of our lives and invites us to hold steady the course laid out before us. To be sure God is in the business of stepping on our toes. John Wesley understood this business as steps of divine grace where God draws us into a season of inspecting our hearts, minds, and souls. Sanctification can be truly a painful process when God’s refiner’s fire begins to consume us until we reflect his divine character (Mal. 3.3). Hebrews 12.11 promises that the final outcome brings us to the fruit of the Spirit which is righteousness. You can bet that God is not in the business of peacefully co-existing with the sin in our lives. If we believe God is only a gentle giant but disregard his consuming love that brings us conviction of sin, it is easy to wonder why we find our selves in painful predicaments.
This week I read an article by J. Lee Grady that speaks about God’s love for us this way, “He is a ruthless warrior, and He goes on a loving rampage until every area of our rebellious hearts has been conquered. He slays our pride, kills our greed and shows no mercy to any sinful behavior that has controlled us. Your choice is to cooperate with the process or to drag it out longer than necessary because you don’t want Him to meddle with your private life” (Charisma September 2016, “Fire in the Bones,” 74). God’s call to repentance is a necessary part of the Christian life.
Have you ever had something you have done in private become a public spectacle? Humiliation can be devastating! Jesus dealt with private sin in public ways all the time! Jesus was once confronted with a private matter in a public way in order to trap him. Jesus was bound by the Law to respond punitively to the situation, however, Jesus created a loophole for the woman to save face. The community was trying to trap Jesus so he stoops down and begins writing in the dust and he says this, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8.7). At the end of the scene only Jesus and the woman are left to deal with the sin that was still standing between them. And, Jesus tells her that he does not condemn her, but to go and sin no more. What a powerful illustration of how private sin can become a public spectacle. But Jesus remains loving committed to her. There was no animosity. Jesus simply says go and sin no more.
Mutual love and hospitality requires that we relinquish attitudes in our hearts: stubbornness, pessimism, selfishness, unforgiveness, and criticism. There are times we want to be so stubborn that we hunker down and dynamite won’t blast us out of the place where we are standing with doubtfulness, caution, and just plain sulking. There are times when we become so pessimistic when we expect the worst outcome because we are so filled with fear and distrust of an uncertain future. There are times when we are so self-centered that want to be isolated from each other or act like loner rangers focusing on our own needs, putting ourselves first. There are times when we are so unforgiving that we don’t have the courage to face our own failures or the pain of having been disrespected, violated, betrayed, or overlooked. There are times when we criticize others with murmurings, finger pointing, accusations, opinions, and whining until we become a noisy cacophony of bad attitudes.
Hebrews 13.7-16 ::: Holy Sacrifice
T.U.B.A. = Thanksgiving, Upward, Blessings, Action
When you toot your horn, you need to be praising God!
The author wants us to understand that a successful life requires sacrifice. Believers are required to bring a continual inward spiritual sacrifice in response to and made possible by Jesus himself. Believers share in the Eucharist expression of the spiritual sacrifice. Believers are called to offer spiritual sacrifices of good works in the community life. Righteousness always comes to those who repent and believe (Mark 1.15).
The purpose the spiritual sacrifice is to bring holiness of heart and life or what one might call the circumcision of the heart. John Wesley defines the “living sacrifice” as a pure intention of the heart aimed completely at pleasing God (Wesley, A Plain Account, 13). He says it this way, “…when in every motion of our heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we pursue nothing but in relation to Him, and in subordination to His pleasure; when we too neither think, nor speak, nor act, to fulfill our own will but the will of Him that sent us. When, whether we eat or drink or whatever we do we do it all to the glory of God” (Wesley, A Plain Account, 13).
Hebrews 13.17-19 ::: Respect for Authority
M.U.S.I.C. = Model righteousness & holiness, Under (sin comes under your feet), Submit to the Word of God, Invest your heart, Christ is the Authority
Leaders are to be vigilant in watching God’s sheep!
The text calls believers to follow their righteous leaders, and submit to them as persons who loose sleep over them as they seek to care for them (13.17). This image is of a shepherd who stays up with the flock watching over them even in the watches of the night. Leaders are called to be vigilant over the souls of those who are under their care and are called to give an account to Jesus Christ himself. The author understands that all believers are held to accountability for their behavior, but the author emphasizes that the community leaders are held to a higher standard of righteousness. He urges the community to work along side the leaders so that joy, not grief, becomes the way we join our hands in serving one another. When laity create arguments of differing opinions from their leaders, it disserves them and ends with grief. Ultimately, when leaders are chosen they need your prayers so that they can continue to have a clear conscience and behave rightly in every circumstance and be above reproach.
This morning Dewey posted the HUMC Youth devotions from the week. The youth are reading through the bible together. I am so impressed with his leadership to guide the youth in reading the bible. The passage for Monday invites us to look upon the qualities of a divided heart. As leaders in God’s Kingdom we are called to live whole-hearted in the light of God’s Word. We must in every way submit to the righteousness of God. Our eyes are to gaze upon the holiness of God in prayer for the people we care for. We are to bow the knee and surrender our leadership to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are foolish if we believe that is an easy task.
Across Judeo-Christian history, we see how leadership has been both good and bad. We can remember together the scandals of leaders who lack the courage to continue to be holy and righteous. What sets apart a godly leader from an ungodly leader is their actions of repentance and unconditional forgiveness. Luke 17 points out clearly, “Watch yourselves! If you brother or sister sins, warn them to stop. If they change their hearts and lives, forgive them. Even if someone sins against you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times and says, ‘I am changing my ways,’ you must forgive that person.” We are only to continue to due our duty of unconditional love and forgiveness toward everyone.
Thanks to Bishop Lindsey Davis for Black’s New Testament Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. It’s been a great resource to draw from throughout this series on Hebrews!