Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity. Heb. 6:1
As much as we try to avoid any hint of elitism in matters of faith the fact remains that there are more mature understandings and experiences of faith that we are called to grow in. There truly are milkier and meatier forms of Christianity and the writer of the book of Hebrews calls us to make clear distinctions between what is elemental to our faith and what is the more solid food that leads to maturity. From beginning to full maturity the progression of our faith is something that needs to be clearly taught and understood by all who journey towards God.
Whereas Catholic and Orthodox believers have deep-rooted traditions of holiness, with many persuasions of saints to look to as models of maturity, Protestants are often left with a much more curtailed vision of the spiritual life. After learning the elemental teachings of the faith, our main objective often seems limited to converting others so that, in turn, we can teach these same elemental truths to them. Though there is nothing wrong with this goal in itself, if it becomes the only thrust of our spirituality it will inevitably represent a thin expression of our faith.
If you were living in the earlier centuries of Christianity and wanted to grow in your faith you would seek out a saint—one who was mature in the wisdom of God and who had grown in prayer to become an expression of God’s proximity that others could learn and model themselves from them. Such men and women were not uncommon though you would likely have to make the effort to seek them beyond the confines of the city or of the institutional church.
Many of these saints became teachers around whom disciples who sought maturity in their faith gathered. It was the hunger of the student, more than anything else, that created the many schools of prayer that now anchor our Christian history. As these saints modeled the fruit of spirituality in their lives, a real longing for maturity was encouraged in others by tangible examples of what the spiritual life might actually look like, and by a teaching that came from the first-hand experience of those whose own pilgrimage to God blazed a trail for others to follow.
If we compare the quest for holiness we see in historical Christianity to some of the objectives expressed in many of our present-day models of growth and maturity we find that pep rallies, motivational seminars, conferences and classroom teaching seem to be something of quite a different order. Have we lost sight of the far-reaching possibilities that exist for maturity in our faith, and of the need to identify the Way of the saints—those who particularly express the fruit of a Christ-united life?
The book of Hebrews encourages us to move beyond the elemental teachings of our faith and to embark on the grand journey that leads to a life more united with God’s. This also represents the way forward for the 21st century Christian. We too need to be reminded that spiritual growth is not a matter of learning the elemental truths of faith over and over again, but of modeling for one another the bred-in-the-bone reality of what a life devoted to God might actually look like.
Who are the Christians who will once again blaze such trails for us? Who, through their own mature faith, will model for us a sanctity beyond the beginnings of faith? Who will offer themselves to bear such fruit for the sake of others? In every generation the Lord calls forth such men and women. The Holy Spirit whispers in each of our hearts, “Who among you would be a saint?” May those who have ears, hear God’s word to them this day.
Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me? Jer. 30:21