Scripture: Hebrews 5.2
He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.
Reflection: Milk of the Word, A Precedent to Growth
By John Tillman
Hebrews chapter 5 begins with an exhortation to deal gently with the ignorant and those who are straying. Yet a few short paragraphs later, the writer rebukes the readers, telling them that it is difficult to teach them when they don’t even try to understand.
The author wishes to discuss complicated topics of Christ’s transcendental priesthood, the Trinity, and the incarnation. But how can the writer go on when the readers are not ready for such theological complexity?
Just like the chastised readers, the maturity of western Christianity is in question.
Our world needs a gospel-driven worldview, yet half of those raised in church can’t identify the Great Commision. What is it? Who said it? What does it mean? Where is it in the Bible? One out of two don’t know.
This is not just an indictment of our lack of biblical knowledge. More knowledge isn’t the answer. Jesus didn’t call Peter to build a biblical trivia team. Peter, and by extension every Christian, is called to feed a flock, starting with the young. Starting with milk. Milk changes a lamb to a ram.
However, even the simplest of disciplines, church attendance, has been in decline since 1959. We can’t, therefore, blame millennials for it. It’s not that we are still drinking milk when we should have been weaned, but that we’ve never drunk it consistently.
The reason for that may be that our culture disdains milk and small beginnings too much. We desire something for nothing. We want spiritual marathon ribbons without putting in the hard miles.
Perhaps we should redefine milk—not as a marker of immaturity and shame but of growth. The purpose of milk is to progress toward consuming and digesting the more complex proteins of scripture.
Babies physically grow faster in their early years than at any time in their life. But the growth of the visible is nowhere close to as impressive as the cognitive growth that is happening in their brains. The growth we can experience by the simple application of spiritual practices to our lives can be similarly exponential.
Prioritizing the basics of faith—Bible reading, reflection, prayer, and corporate worship—is a spiritual intake process that matures with us, leading deeper into scripture as we repetitively read and absorb God’s Word.
If we expect to effect change in our complex and demanding world, we don’t need to beat up ourselves or others. We just need to consistently drink our milk.
Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said to us: “Everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.” — Matthew 10.26-27
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.