Something Better



A car from the family's past. 

Scripture:

Heb. 11:39   Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Observation:

The great Faith Chapter in Hebrews reminds us of those who have gone before. They have suffered through persecutions and struggles, and yet, they have persevered. We are presented with a vision of a stadium which is filled with spectators, those who have already completed their challenge, and are cheering on the current generation. It’s a vision of an event which is not yet completed, because not everyone has participated. They haven’t received the reward — or awards — yet, because the entire event must come to completion, or be made perfect. 

That means that our lives are directly connected to their lives. We are a part of a community of faith that stretches throughout the ages and we are interconnected in a powerful way. This was the “something better” — of being united, not only in this age, but to the past and the ages to come. It’s the reminder that we are a part of a whole, and not an island in and to ourselves. This is something much better than what we can imagine all on our own. 

Application:

Most salesmen are extremely talented at showing us “something better.” Just try and buy a car and you’ll discover the “something better” that will cost you a lot more, but without which you simply could not survive! Surely we need all the latest technology, or we wouldn’t be able to drive from point A to point B. Or, what about the latest in technology in general? Conversations often digress into discussions of things like “apples” and “androids.” Can’t you imagine all of this would have been foreign just fifteen years ago! Then we discuss OS and iOS, and google chrome vs. safari, and if you’re a good pastor it’s Logos v. Accordance! Ha — we all want something better, and we even pretend that we know what the conversation is about to try and learn what that better just might be.

If we are all driven to want that “something better” then our response to Christian faith leaves me a bit puzzled. Now, since I’m a historian theologian, it should not surprise you that I think learning about the past and those who have gone before is vitally important to the faith. I think that’s what the author of Hebrews is saying as well. If I discover that the “something better” has to do with my connection to those of faith who have gone before, maybe I ought to take that relationship seriously. However, we live in an age that sees itself as very enlighten with new scientific knowledge and truth, and just may feel that connection to institutions, organizations, or individuals from the past simply becomes a weight that keeps one from soaring freely. 

It’s amazing that in the last ten years we have been encouraged to disregard over 2000 years of Christian history in regard to things like sexuality. We have planted new churches where we have established local structures around a personality with little accountability. We have adjusted the worship style to be relevant to a narrow band of the population, forgetting those who may have sacrificed themselves for the life of the church and are still present. We are pushed to live in the present only, to respond to our own personal needs, and value our personal “experience” above all else.

Today, society reads very little history. Instead of honoring the past and recognizing that we are a part of a stream of history, we have reduced the amount of history that is taught. This is true in the public school sector in the United States. “A 2012 story in Perspectives on History magazine by University of North Carolina professor Bruce VanSledright found that 88 percent of elementary school teachers considered teaching history a low priority.” (https://nypost.com/2017/01/22/why-schools-have-stopped-teaching-american-history/) This article goes on to say that we don’t teach history, because we don’t test children on history. If that’s true of the public schools, what about in the church? Do we teach children the basic history and stories that are found in the Bible? If not, they may not know anything about the “something better” which means the church may be weaker at its mission than the car salesman. 

I know that some would argue that the current generation may need to be a corrective to the one of the past so that all can finish well. I do believe that this is true, but only to the extent that we actually know the previous generations. Therefore, this conversation is really about relationships. As God’s people, “something better” means that we invest in contemporary relationships where we unite together with God’s people. This also means that we invest in relationships longitudinally, meaning that we are stronger when we are multi-generational. That includes the current world in which we live, but also making sure that we connect to the past, and prepare for the future. Our lives in Christ are about our participation in God’s time, in the kairos of this world, and when that happens, we are in for “something better.”

Prayer:

Lord, may I not be tempted only by the here and now, but may I be willing to be connected to those who will allow us to experience the better that you have planned.  Amen. 

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