Persevere!

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:4-8

The Hebrews author continues to wind up his letter to Rome with exhortations, and at first glance this selection seems a little random, almost out of context, in fact.  We’ve been going through the amazing reality of the New Covenant, sweeping through redemption history, coming into the very presence of God… in a context of remaining faithful to the end, even through terrible persecution; even unto death.  Then the author suddenly begins to tell us to respect marriage, be pure, not to love money and to respect our leaders in the faith.  Circle the piece in the picture that doesn’t belong…

But don’t be too hasty!

You could say that these things are mentioned to remind the recipients not to slip into sin, and who could argue with that?  Yet it still doesn’t quite fit in context, does it?  Yes, yes, not slipping into sin is the correct Sunday school answer, but it hardly gets to the point; Sunday school answers usually don’t get to the point.

Remain faithful to the end, even unto death.  Faithful is a covenant term meaning t keep covenant.  Adultery is a violation of the marriage covenant. Have you ever known (or been) someone who is involved in an extra marital affair? These things seem to require a web of deceit and deception to keep them going, and there seems to be a certain drive to keep them going.  When the guilty party is found out, there is great carnage in their homes, relationships and in their lives in general. These things take a lot of work and attention, and I can say with great confidence that they do not promote or advance anybody’s relationship with Jesus Christ.  Sexual immorality tends to have the same kinds of attributes even if there is no marital issue involved.  How about the love of money and things?  While this may not always require secrecy, it does require attention and effort; a great deal of it, actually. Does it enhance one’s relationship with our Lord?  Hardly!

The author has been teaching us not to neglect our covenant relationship he has been encouraging us to remain faithful. Sexual immorality of whatever kind and the love of money are things that can become so all-encompassing in a person’s life that they can easily cause one to slip away from Christ, their faith and even to “fall away” entirely; thus these are not random exhortations at all. The quotations from Deuteronomy 31 and Psalm 118 take the exhortation to the next step, for they remind us that in Christ, we have the help we need to stand firm in our faith, to remain faithful and to persevere. Even the mention of our leaders who stand tall in their faith to teach, encourage and exemplify what it is to live in Christ is there to give us encouragement.  Leaders, this should also remind you of your responsibility to emulate Jesus Christ in everything that you do and say.

As we pause here to reflect, can you see how this all fits together?  It is as though the author is telling us to keep our eyes on Jesus, not to be drawn off track by the temptations of this world, but to persevere through any kind of trial, whether it is a trial of persecution or a trial of temptation so that we can remain faithful to the end. What he is not really doing here is citing mere “violations”, for he is going much deeper than that. He is asking us to consider our innermost priorities, just as Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount.

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