Delete the hyphen

11 05 2012

“Ian, will you DO something!” was a cry that periodically rang out in our house when my mother was in a fix.  The sub text was that my father was too self-absorbed to notice that there was a crisis.  The question not to ask was, “What do you want me to do?”

Graphic by Ellen Lupton

Many religious people have a well-intentioned “do something” mentality – I must do religious things, even if I’m not sure what they are, for God to accept me; I must get it all together before I can pray; I need to sort myself out and then maybe…

Hebrews addresses this issue.  The writer tells first century Jewish Christians that they are too religious for their own good, too bent on doing. 

Eugene Peterson, in his introduction to Hebrews in The Message, calls them “Jesus-and” Christians: Jesus-and-angels, Jesus-and-Moses, Jesus-and-priesthood.  Hebrews, he says, “deletes the hyphens” and helps the reader refocus on God’s action in Jesus.

However, don’t be tempted to delete the hyphens and sit down to rest.  It’s not enough to say, “God-accepts-me-as-I-am-so-I- don’t-need-to-do-anything.”  True, God invites us as we are; but we must respond to the invitation – “Our part in the action is the act of faith” (Peterson) – and engage with the life change that inevitably follows.




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