Are you a milky Christian or a meaty one? The infant formula kind or a steak-on-the-plate believer?
Recently I felt more than a little chastised by the tone of the writer to the Hebrews, who gets frustrated with his readers in Hebrews 5:11 – 6:4 for still living on spiritual milk – the foundational truths of God’s Word – rather than meat for the mature.
Elementary, my dear Christian
It may seem surprising to us that the writer regards those still on the ‘elementary teachings about Christ’ as ‘not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness’.
Especially when that list of elementary teachings in 6:1-2 concerns such heavy subjects such as conversion (repentance and faith), washings (baptism and the laying on of hands) and future hope (resurrection and judgement).
Whilst I hope we are all keen to embrace these core truths of the Christian life, may it never be said that we are a church who are not spiritually mature enough to go any further.
By way of example (rather than comparison), I was once part of a church that used this list of six as their foundations course for newcomers. After these fundamentals were properly digested, the emphasis for each believer was to move on to areas of the Bible they were perhaps not as familiar with, growing in appetite for what the writer calls solid food.
The question for each of us then is: which solids are you on now?
Time for a feed?
As many will have observed, it is not difficult to make our son Ethan chuckle, but certainly his most prolonged laugh has been reserved for my pretending to consume his bottled milk, in an attempt to get him to drink. Even for an 11-month-old, there is something unfitting, even comical, about an adult feeding off baby milk.
Equally, though we are keen for Ethan to grow, Melody and I have so far avoided slamming down a 28oz rump steak onto Ethan’s high-chair tray and bellowing ‘get your teeth into that!’ (Ethan has, at this time, precisely six teeth).
Spiritual milk is vital for new Christians, but for those who have been Christians a long time, God expects us to be ‘not laying again the foundation’ but to be moving forwards into maturity.
In practice, this means recognising that there is more God wants to show us of himself in his Word than just a Christianity Basics course and having the willingness to apply what he shows us to our lives.
For the writer, this meant telling his readers about ‘Melchizedek’ (read the passage to find out more!).
For us, moving forwards to maturity may be studying a book of the Bible in detail we’ve never before experienced (keep a good commentary or study Bible at hand…). It may mean listening to some teaching online or reading a book about an area we’ve never before ventured into, and then living what we’re learning.
By the Holy Spirit’s power, it may be opening ourselves up to understanding the context of the Bible writers a little more. Or it may be growing as a teacher of God’s Word and not just a hearer.
In all these things, the aim is to grow in our relationship with God by eating properly, so we can live properly.
So whether we think of ourselves as milky, meaty, or somewhere in between (a kind of ‘beef milkshake’ if you will), we are being encouraged to be adventurous in feeding our spiritual stomachs and to never be hesitant or critical of going on to the meatier things of God. As the writer says, 6:3, ‘and God permitting, we will do so’.