We Are God’s House

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This Pauline letter is written to Jewish Christians. It seems to have been addressed to them out of a concern for them, that they may have been in danger of apostasy from their Christian faith. That danger was not due to persecution from outsiders but, rather, to a weariness with the demands of a Christian life and a growing indifference to their calling. In that sense, it may be as important an exhortation for us today as well. The Christian life is not a life of ease. It is more than church services and reading the Bible. It ought to be a life of Christian action, a life of service to a wounded and suffering world. We are called to love others, especially when it is difficult. It is a 24/7/365 calling.

In chapter 3 of Hebrews, the author begins by addressing the community as ʺbrothers sharing in a heavenly calling.ʺ (3:1) He calls on them to reflect on both Jesus and Moses. He points out the difference between the two and, Jesus’ greater importance, by using the metaphor of a house to talk about who built it, who was faithful in it, and who was set over it. He writes that Moses was ʺfaithful in all the house.ʺ (3:2) His Jewish Christian readers would have recognized that he is referring them back to what God said of Moses to Aaron and Miriam in Numbers 12:7. Because of Moses’ faithfulness in all the house, God spoke to him ‘face to face,’ not in dreams. But the author goes on to say that Jesus ʺ…is worthy of more glory than Moses as the founder of a house has more ‘honor’ than the house itself. Every house is founded by someone, but the founder of all is God.ʺ (3:3-4) Moses was faithful as a servant who was able ʺto testify to what would be spoken.ʺ (3:5) Jesus’ faithfulness was that of a son who is ʺplaced over his house.ʺ (3:6) The author of Hebrews is comparing these two figures, not just to show Jesus’ greater importance, but to show that the ‘house of God’ is the Christian community and he is also suggesting the continuity of that community with Israel. He is not speaking of two houses, but of one, and it is, Jesus, the Son of God, who has been placed over it and who unites it.

It is good for us to be reminded of these things today too. We, too, can become complacent, too comfortable in our faith. We in the Western world are not being openly persecuted, like our brothers and sisters were in the early Church. Many of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are being so persecuted for their faith today. Many are shedding their blood for the faith this very day. But we here in the West, like the Jewish Christians to whom this letter was addressed, may need our comfort disturbed a bit. Our comfort may be our worst enemy. Our danger might be our complacency. Our danger might be in our succumbing to a subtle and growing indifference to the suffering of others.

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We are reminded here, too, that Jesus is faithful to the house he built and that we, the Christian community, are that house. We must, like Jesus, be faithful to his house as well. We are faithful ʺIf we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.ʺ Comfort is a tantalizing temptor and breeds complacency. It is a wide road. Once we have gotten comfortable we tend to want to stay there. We can become frustrated or perturbed when our comfort is threatened and become more interested in defending our comfort than in being challenged to live the faith we profess to believe in. It takes courage to recognize that we are wrong and to do what is necessary to get back on to the narrow path. When we are comfortable, we no longer feel a need for hope. We can tend to think we have all that we need. We might presume that this is so because we are somehow ‘in the graces of God,’ and those who are not like us are not in the graces of God. If we think like that, we are in real trouble of apostasy from ʺthe hope of which we boast.ʺ If our comfort makes us lose sight of the suffering of those around us, we may already be apostate. If our hope in God is for ourselves alone, we are not faithful to the Christian community’s God. As members of the House of God, the Christian community, we are to have that same love and sense of justice for all, not just those of our denomination, or of our country. Are we not called to be all of our brother’s keepers—every day?

Lord, let us never forget that we are active members of your house, not one that we have made. Let us never forget that we are to serve you with a faithfulness as strong and courageous as that of Moses. If we have become too comfortable, awaken us once again. Help us to remain faithful in service to You, so that we might be able to testify to what You have spoken, like Moses did. Help us to testify to your Word through our faithful service to all, every day of our lives. In this we will be honoring you and our calling as members of your house. We ask this prayer in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.