So what are we doing here, taking valuable time out of our busy days, finding babysitting, leaving work early, making the drive, putting off rest, all to come out and sit in a seminary class? This is a good question. After all, there is much that we could be doing other than meeting for class every week.
The life of faith has been helpfully compared to a journey that starts, in many ways, the moment when someone first recognizes the truthfulness of Jesus’ claims about himself, particularly that he is God, and Lord, and Savior. But this seminal moment is only one early stop on the journey of the Christian life, and the journey is not meant to be walked alone.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews explains that believers in Jesus Christ are to be regularly meeting with each other so that they can help each other along in the life of faith.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:12-14)
In this passage, community is offered as a solution to a problem. So what is the problem? Verse 12 warns against allowing an “evil, unbelieving heart” that might tempt believers away from the true, “living” God. One way, perhaps the key way, to heed this warning is to be in community.
So what about community might help a person better understand, love, and follow Jesus Christ? The word “exhort” includes both the positive idea of encouraging and the negative idea of cautioning. In community a follower of Jesus might be both encouraged to move forward in faith and cautioned against dangers along the way. This is what it means to exhort, but if we want to offer meaningful exhortation, then we need to be a part of each other’s lives in a consistent, personal way.
To grow in Christian community, we need to first be sure that we are actively gathering regularly with our church family. There is no substitution for the church when it comes to Christian community. The letter to the Hebrews calls for an even more radical vision of community involvement, encouraging us to speak into each other’s lives “every day, as long as it is called ‘today’”. The troubles, anxieties, and oppositions of life are a daily threat to the wellbeing of our faith, and so we need daily exhortation of brothers and sisters of the faith to help is finish strong in the journey of the Christian life. That means seeking every opportunity to hold each other up.
As a secondary solution to the problem of Hebrews, seminary is a special sort of Christian community. It is a gather of Christians seeking similar vocation or calling in their lives. This is a unique community with a unique structure and purpose, and offers a kind of support and care that are hard to find elsewhere in human society. I would encourage you to take full advantage of the community you have available to you at RTS. There are few places where Christian ministers congregate for training, and this may be one of your only outlets for that part of your Christian growth. Don’t miss out.
John Scott Redd, Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Old Testament