My laptop is four years old, and although that’s ancient in terms of our current concept of technology (computers specifically), I’ve been reluctant to replace it. I’m not just holding out until I can really afford it; I’m holding back because my current operating system—Windows 7—works well, I know it inside and out, and I have yet to hear something positive about Windows 8. Although one can still get a new computer with the old Windows, who wants to pay top dollar for yesterday’s technology? Sure, most new operating systems have a bug or two—or 100—but I’m just not sold on why they updated something that worked really well.
Just to create something new, flashy, and more expensive, I guess. Although if I asked a rep at Best Buy, I’m sure she or he would sell me on the pros of 8, trying to convince me how great it is—or will be. The new interface is better, more convenient; everything is quicker, more efficient. Maybe I’m just cynical, but I doubt they would tell me differently—why talk someone out of a sale?
The unknown author of the Book of Hebrews is also making a hard sell to Jewish people in order to convince them that Christianity is really just an improved form of their faith—Jesus made everything better, he’s essentially arguing. He doesn’t just want them to take his word for it either. He breaks a lot down in his argument.
He begins by making a strong case for what Jesus pulled off in his life—what he endured and why he did it. (If you’ve read the four gospels, you know what this entails.) In fact, everything that he did he did better than anyone that came before. Lest anyone be confused, the author makes clear that if you thought Moses was good, Jesus is in fact better (3:5-6). The best lesson here?: learn from all those people who made the mistake of doubting (i.e. hardening their hearts against God) and embrace the faith (3:16-17).
But if what you currently follow works well, why upgrade? Turns out, only those who follow the gospel—Jesus’ version—will enter heaven (4:1). For those religiously inclined, this seemed to get their attention. But if they were still unconvinced, the author presses forward by showing just how much better things are under Jesus: he improved the ability to have a personal relationship with God (7:22), he received better instructions than Moses ever did—perhaps referring to the 10 Commandments? (8:5-6), and he revised the criteria of the Tabernacle (9:10).
And here is where things get interesting.
To make people feel better about this long-standing set of rituals/beliefs, the author makes clear that the old directions (those in the Old Testament) were good—specifically, they make sense for the ancient times in which they were created. Now, however, we have a new set, ones that have been modernized (9:10). He explains this further about why animal sacrifice is obsolete; Jesus shed all the blood for us we’ll ever need.
So what about this particular part of the argument is interesting?
The author states clearly that old rules made sense in a particular context—the Old Testament era—but modern ways of living had rendered them obsolete. Jesus, basically, showed us how we can evolve what is deemed necessary. Makes sense, so why isn’t this used to address anyone using Old Testament ideas to justify gay bigotry?
But that’s not the only issue here. Why should these people accept what the author argues? Like so many of the important figures in the Old Testament—the ones who created great examples which people should follow—people should have faith. They should trust that things change and they can embrace the changes God makes possible. Makes sense.
And for those who like some of the judgmental language contained in the Old Testament, not to worry: the author still clarifies that discipline is important, that sexual immorality should be avoided, strangers (and even prisoners) should be respected, and the “marriage bed should be kept pure” (13:4). In the end, leave the judging to God though, for the sinners, specifically the adulterers and the sexually immoral will be judged later (13:4).
Given all this, it’s a wonder more people didn’t want to embrace this new religion: it seems to have all the parts people have embraced without all the tedious components—what can’t I eat?—that would make life cumbersome. An even better question: why have so many of these laws/ideas endured without further updating? But maybe that’s why Christianity has so many different versions, ones that have created a set of outlooks that better reflect modern times. Still, I do get why some people remained reticent. Perhaps they were wise enough to wait to see how this new Christianity thing worked out. Give it time, let them work the bugs out, and then I’ll consider it.