11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5 (NIV)

The other day I was playing in the world’s shortest river, while on a trip to the world’s largest body of water.[1]  The river was great. At high tide it runs about 120ft from Devil’s Lake into the Pacific. The seawall protected it from the cold, barreling Pacific wind.  It was shallow enough for my toddler to explore and it was filled with tiny fish.  My son and I got into a bit of an endless toddler cycle: daddy catches fish in jar, son marvels, immediately releases them, shouts, “catch again,” and daddy happily obliges.  Pretty awesome!   

There were hundreds of these little fish sunning themselves on the river’s calm bottom. Just a hundred feet away a deep, dark, cold, tumultuous, underwater world roils and these little guys have no idea.  They were just chillin’.  My guess is that they have no idea another world exists.  I doubt any of them adventurously wander into the Pacific to explore.  To the extent that a fish can be happy they looked delighted to live in their little microcosm—oblivious to the violently rolling waves just across the rocks. And why not!  They’re fish for heaven’s sake.  

I literally spent hours with my son marveling at "these" little guys.

We are not fish.[2]
We cannot live isolated, uninformed lives.[3] We cannot swim again and again through the safest of waters.  We cannot constantly warm ourselves with the assurance of our eternal place in glory.  We cannot pretend that there are not places, very nearby, in desperate need of calmness; in need of a savior who would say, “Peace. Be still.” We cannot live our Christian life on the milk and safety of infancy.  

We must practice the risky way of Jesus.  

I’m not talking about the classic Christian axiom: get out of your comfort zone.  That language is so self-centered. [4] I’m talking about maturity that produces fruit for the sore and empty stomachs of those who live at the behest of the world’s crass waves. The fruits of life in Christ are utterly beneficial to people in darkness.  Is there peace in despair?  Is there gentleness in abuse?  Kindness in betrayal?  Patience in famine?  Generosity in thirst?  Self-control in mourning? Love in hate? Faithfulness in impurity? Joy in selfishness? Few things are more true about the earthly ministry of Christ than that he entered into darkness with the light of these beautiful attributes.  He could have stayed.  He could have sunned himself in a calm pool of divine self-assuredness, but he ventured into the deep to reclaim his own creation!  

A word of caution here: I’m not talking about Christian heroics.  No swooping in to save the damsel in distress.  Hebrews has it dead-on when it compares Christian maturity with growing out of infancy.  Infants do not wake up one day a toddler.  It’s a slow, magical, and tedious progression.  They are weaned from milk and slowly adapt to a more mature diet.  And they do none of that alone.  You leave them alone and you’ll murder them.  They must be walked with.  So too, this maturity, this venture does not unfold within the realm of Hollywood individualism, but within the arena of a sharpening church, a community of solidarity and a shepherding Savior.[5]
So let us keep moving from milk to solid food; from calm and warm streams to tumbling and frigid surfs. From ignorance to world-benefiting, Jesus-shaped maturity.[6]

[1] It’s called the D River in Lincoln City and apparently there’s some controversy about whether it is really the world’s shortest.  See here.
[2] If we were dealing with a different passage of scripture I might have taken us down the exact opposite road: here are these fish, designed for their specific ecosystem, to venture elsewhere would be to deny their design and commit suicide.  So too, we must be masters of our environment, pouring the whole of our lifestyle into our neighborhood.  At this point, I could have said, “We are fish!” J
[3] Try as I might.
[4] That’s not to say that there aren’t times for such language.
[5] I should note that the author of Hebrews is arguing that the Christians being addressed should have understood who Christ is by now, not necessarily that they should have emulated who Christ is.  The lesson is about a maturity of understanding, but I’d argue, what good is it to understand the role of Christ that understanding does not flood our lifestyle.  We might find a similar message throughout Paul’s letters and James where it is argued that sound teaching about Christ must translate into a lifestyle that emulates him and benefits the world (From Paul see Rms. 12:1-15:13; Gal. 5; Phil. 2:1-18; and Col.3).
[6] It is also true there are really times for the calm pool.  Times of infancy in faith are as crucial as the infant years of life.  We are designed to be infants for an appropriate time period.  There’s also, to keep the metaphor going, times of wounds and injuries.  If you’re wounded you don’t venture out of the still stream into the shadow of death.  Life in Christ requires an insightful community and self-awareness.


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