Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, 2 instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And we will do this, if God permits. 4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.
This book is called “Hebrews” because it is written to an audience of Jewish Christian readers. And these Jewish Christians were struggling. For a Jew to leave behind traditional Judaism to join the Christian church, he or she would likely have suffered repercussions. Whether this included imprisonment or death we aren’t told, but at the very least there was a loss of identity which could lead to being ostracized from family and community.
I was brought up in a Catholic family and, though ours was not what you would call a “devout Catholic” family, the church played a significant role at critical moments – birth, marriage, death, and so on. To leave the Catholic church was a big deal. I remember telling family members I felt called to ministry… in the Lutheran church. It didn’t go well at first. Wasn’t there a way to live this out in the Catholic church? If not as a priest then perhaps a deacon or some other role? It took time for my family to come around, but eventually they did. And again, mine is not a family tightly connected to the church in general yet it was still difficult. I can’t tell you what it meant to me for my parents and my grandparents (pictured with me above on the day of my ordination) to celebrate with me and receive communion – in a Lutheran church!
So as I read this passage warning Jewish Christians against “falling away” (v.6) I have some inkling of what they were dealing with.
Lord Jesus today I pray for all those who have to defy family religious identity and tradition to follow where you lead. It has never been easy, but we believe that living according to your will and your ways are worth the sacrifices. Give us grace to hold fast to you and to love our family even they reject the paths we’ve chosen. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.