I have been listening to a certain podcast for the past month or so, (for those of you who don’t know what a podcast is, it is an internet only radio-style talk show). It is hosted by two minister friends who like to offer thoughts on theology and how theology intersects with culture. Recent episodes of their podcast have been post-debate analysis for the past couple of Presidential debates. On the most recent post-debate episode, the hosts were giving their opinion on how sad they were about the entire 2016 election, with all of it’s name calling, mud slinging, each candidate pulling skeletons out of each other’s pasts, and the sheer avoidance of any substantive discussion about actual issues. In all, the hosts’s perspective was that the population was not much different. In fact, they viewed the general voting population as just as pathetic. Those that already side with Hillary, don’t bat an eye at anything that might be an issue for her; and those that side with Trump, don’t bat an eye at anything that might be an issue for him. And, then you have the whole smattering of independents that fill the gamut from socialist-leaning and former Bernie Sander’s supporters to the uber-libertarian supporters of Gary Johnson. And then there are the prize voters of any candidate, the undecideds, of which Ken Bone became the most recent household mascot — making appearances on almost every television news show and late night show, and even having a trick-or-treat costume created out of his now infamous red sweater. The earlier mentioned podcast hosts offered their thought that the undecideds of the 2016 election reflect much of the U.S. Society. Undecideds, they noted, are not as much undecided, as they are, uninformed (it takes no more than an on-the-street interview conducted by a late night comedy show to reflect this). The podcast host’s comments reflected a view that undecideds are voters who have no real concern or interest in substantive issues, but rather are those that get caught-up in the reality-tv nature of 21st century U.S. Politics.
Uninformed people. That is not a moniker that most want attached to their name. It holds leech tags with it, such as: uneducated, ignorant, or dumb. If this is how the mentality of the general population of the culture around us is viewed, how much of that mentality could also be said of those in the body of Christ in the 21st century United States?
Nehemiah 8, recalls a time when the Jewish people were returning from exile and resettling back into Jerusalem and life with the temple of God. Amidst this resettling, all of the people were called together, and Ezra (one of the teachers of the Law) came before the people to read them the Law that God gave to Israel — to remind them of who they were to be as a people. After reading the Law, Nehemiah 8:7-8 makes this note, “The Levites — Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodaih, Maaseiah, Kalita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah — instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.” Hopefully, you caught that, the people heard the Law of God read, and probably most gathered a basic understanding of the Law from the reading. But, it was made clear to them when it was explained by teachers, the Levites — those intimately tending to the nation of Israel’s relationship with God in the temple.
The Israelites had ample opportunity to have the Law of God explained. Ignorance was not an excuse. If you noticed, there are at least thirteen Levite-teachers mentioned in the Nehemiah text. There were many teachers available to explain the Law of God more clearly, so that it could be obeyed.
Fast-forward a couple hundred years to Jesus. Jesus grew up in this same Jewish tradition of learning the Law of God and understanding it clearly. We see this, when Jesus is a young boy and where he is found (by Mary and Joseph) in the temple asking questions about what he did not know and even giving answers regarding what he already knew — and the people around him were amazed (Luke 2:41ff). Jesus carries this learning/teaching mentality all throughout his life on earth, to the point where he is considered a great teacher himself — followed around by disciples wanting to learn from him.
The importance of teaching that we see emulated by Jesus, and foreshadowed by the Levite teachers in Nehemiah, is also stressed to the churches — the body of Christ — that follows after Jesus’ ascended to the right hand of his Father. The apostle Paul writes to Timothy, a preaching/teaching minister of the early church that, “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).” Here, Paul is referring to the content that he teaches is what had been passed down from what Jesus and his disciples taught, and it is to be taught to Jesus’ followers even now. And, for people to learn what Jesus taught and did, qualified teachers are needed, so Timothy was to train and institute qualified teachers in his local church body.
From Jesus, back to Nehemiah, and up through the early church, learning about God’s ways have been a staple priority and practice for God’s people. Being ignorant of God’s ways is not an option for a follower of Jesus. Rather, being a follower — a disciple — of Jesus is just that, a learner (disciple = pupil, learner). Our very calling is to be people who are constantly seeking to more clearly understand what God’s ways are — through what Jesus taught and lived.
Even those of us in the Clarence Church of Christ have not excuse for not learning. There are plenty of ways in which you can do that.
Sunday morning worship is one way, but it is not necessarily a time geared toward deep learning. Rather, it is more a time to be reminded of who we are in Christ and the good news that he brings to our life, and the responses we are to give back to him. It is a time of being re-calibrated/re-shaped/re-molded into Christ’s image, by Christ’s Spirit at work in our surrendered lives. But, there are other learning avenues at CCC.
There are two classes that meet on Sunday morning. One class (shameless plug here) is the Roots of the Faith class, led by me, from 9-10am. It explores, from a base level, the ins and outs of why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe. Visit the link above to sign-up or to contact me to get more information about the class. Another class is led by Jim Walker and Earl Shackleford, from 10:30-11:30am. This class is currently studying the New Testament books and letters. And, even if those classes aren’t feasible for you right now, if you are a reader, myself (and I can’t speak for them, but my guess is that Mike and the elders as well), would be more than ecstatic if you wanted to take-on an independent study or guided book reading — to help enhance you understanding of the Christian faith. As well, there are a host of sources that I, or Mike or the elders, could point your attention — by which you could enhance your understanding of faith in Christ on your own time.
We have no excuse. There are ample opportunities all around us to learn. We live in day and age where information and knowledge is so accessible to us, but do we take advantage of it? Do we make learning a priority for our schedules?
Like Jesus, and like the Israelites of Nehemiah’s day, don’t let yourself be an undecided — an uninformed follower of Jesus. I encourage you to seek out an avenue of expanding your understanding of God and his ways.