Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. —Hebrews 6:1-2
Last time I wondered how you might answer the question of an unbelieving friend who, doing his or her comparison shopping for religions, might ask you, “What does Christianity offer to me? To the world?” We looked at how we might answer that for ourselves. I suggested that there is a deeply profound answer that the world needs now as much as any time in the past.
“Let’s get back to the basics.” Have you ever heard that phrase? Sports coaches use it frequently. When a football team is playing poorly, the coach may say, “We need to get back to the basics of blocking and tackling.” Baseball coaches talk of the basics of hitting and fielding. There are basics in everything we do: science, math, philosophy, music, art, building, electrical work, engineering, flying, medicine, relationships, and on and on. Sometimes we call these basic things “elementary” things because they must come first. Stop a moment and think of some of the elementary things of something you do…
The foundation of a house is a concrete example (pardon the pun) of an “elementary” thing. A house must sit on a solid foundation or the house structure itself may tumble. Jesus was a builder by trade and the son of a builder. He knew the importance of a solid foundation; look at his use of a building example in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus the builder knew from experience that it was important to make the building foundation solid so that the entire house would not fall when the winds and rain and floods came.
Yet, as important as these elementary things are, as foundational as they are to our lives, we don’t often dwell on them. I rarely give the foundation of our house a second thought. When balancing the checkbook I don’t stop to recall the associative property of mathematics. Surely we should remind ourselves of them from time-to-time, and when things go haywire we are wise to quickly return to them as a likely cause of our trouble, but other than that we rarely give them a second thought, and rightly so.
Return to the passage above. Look at what the writer lists as the elementary–foundational–teachings about “the Christ”: repentance from sin, faith in God, instruction about ceremonial washing, laying on of hands, resurrection, and judgment. These are elementary to Christianity not in a way that is unimportant, but that by this time the writer says we ought to be so familiar with them that we can move on to more mature things. The elementary items listed by the writer of the book of Hebrews are certainly the very foundation of Christianity. And, since our writer is writing to a Jewish audience, these things would be elementary to them, too…they are the very foundation of the Judeo/Christian faith. However, the writer urges us to move past them to something more mature, something built upon this foundation, something distinctively Christian. Perhaps this surprises you, since these elementary things listed in Hebrews are the things upon which we so often dwell; yet, the writer refers to these things as milk and urges us to get on to the solid food of the mature (Hebrews 5:13-14).
This solid food, this thing of maturity, is what Christianity has to offer the world and is offered by no other religion; it is the answer to the despair of the world. It is the hope of the promise of God guaranteed by His oath (Hebrews 6:17-18). Hope will be a great topic for further thinking…