Brothers, I ask you to bear with this message of encouragement … .
New American Bible Revised Edition
We have been reading in the Letter to the Hebrews the past few Sundays (in August 2013). The author calls his work a “message of encouragement” (other translations use “my word of exhortation”). Whether a message of encouragement or a word of exhortation the author clearly wants to support and affirm and challenge his hearers to keep their focus on Jesus (see Hebrews 12:1-2) and move forward into an uncertain and uncontrollable future as did our ancestors in the faith: with trust in God who over time has proven to be trustworthy.
Of course, this encouragement, or exhortation, is also a word worth hearing in our day. Highlighting the seriousness of this ancient encouragement and our modern situation is this word from the former Archbishop of Canterbury:
‘Persecuted’ British Christians need to ‘grow up’, says former Archbishop Rowan Williams. Christians complaining of persecution in Britain need to “grow up”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has said, as he argues feeling “mildly uncomfortable” is not comparable to real suffering elsewhere.
Read the entire post in The Telegraph (Aug. 15, 2013)
Further illuminating his words are reports and stories of the burning of churches in Egypt, Christians living in caves and fear on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, the difficult lives of Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip, the very uncertain future of Christians in Syria, and the tenuous circumstances of Christians in China. These are life and death situations and the response of faith may indeed be difficult and the discouragement that anything can change for the better must be overwhelming at times. To these Christians the words of the author of Hebrews must come like a balm to heal and make strong and give hope.
So, to be verbally abused in England or in the United States for being Christian; even to be ridiculed for trust in God (when evil and painful situations abound) or to receive the vehement incredulity and head-shaking dismissal from those who conclude that there is no God is minor by comparison (just ask Rowan Williams, or me). Yet, such is our situation and the author of Hebrews speaks to our situation, too (seen in its proper global perspective, of course).
What are your struggles and how is the ancient word in the Letters to the Hebrews a word of encouragement? How might we “be with” our brothers and sisters in Christ whose persecution, whose situation, is far more pressing, and even life-threatening? Leave a comment and continue the conversation.