Milk & Meat

We all know the process of weaning. Eventually a child must graduate from a diet of only milk to one with solid food. In order to grow and to mature, the child must have the nutrients provided by foods other than milk: meats, vegetables, carbohydrates, etc.

Scripture uses the same analogy for our Christian maturity. Hebrews 5:13-6:2 says, "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teaching about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment."

Those who are lost or who are new to the faith absolutely need milk -- the basics of the gospel message. They need to hear of the love of God, the coming of Jesus Christ, the atonement on the cross, the empty tomb, and the realities of sin, heaven, and hell. But the rest of us need meat, too. If we're to grow in maturity and wisdom, we have to move beyond the basics. Let's talk about the history of covenant. Let's scour Revelation and see what we can find. Let's think about how our faith impacts our jobs, our families, the TV shows we watch, the words that come out of our mouths.

And I think the average Christian wants to have those conversations. At every church I've served, I've received comments along the lines of, "This was great! I learned things today!" That tells me the average church member is ready to get off milk. And since there are no doctrinal Cheerios, they're ready to go straight to meat. They want to explore the Bible, to learn about church history. Pastors need to help them do so. That could be teaching extra classes, going deeper in sermons and Bible studies, or simply being willing to sit down with people with questions. I don't think pastors necessarily need to break out lecture notes on responses to Anselm's ontological argument, and I don't believe the faith of Joe Church Member will be particularly strengthened by knowing Bultmann's demythologization of the Bible, but we need to teach about holiness, about faith and culture, about the fullness of expression and beauty of God's love for us.

We must never lose sight of the cross of Christ, no matter what we teach. But the milk of biblical basics should lead to the meat of deeper things. Truly we grow closer to God the more we know about Him. Better still, God wants us to know Him and His truth -- and that's good news!

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