You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
Hebrews 5 (emphasis mine, of course. Does biblical greek even have italics?)
There’s a black-and-whiteness that many or most people bring to morality. Some things are clearly good, some things are clearly bad. Often something that’s clearly good for one person is clearly bad for another. Sometimes there’s an internal compass, “it just felt right, and I trust that“. Often there’s some external source of truth that defines what’s good or what’s not for a person. I’ve seen cheesy christian souvenirs that say “the bible said it, I believe it, that settles it”.
Like it’s that easy. 🤷♂️
I appreciate the writer of Hebrews reminding us that knowing the difference between right and wrong is a skill, and a sign of maturity. It’s not all easy and straight forward, it requires training.
It’s interesting thinking about the ethical dilemmas the early church stressed about – divorce and remarriage, eating food sacrificed to idols, sharing meals with different ethnic / religious groups.
In the book of Mark there’s a story where Jesus is teaching on divorce and remarriage:
Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.
Then in a similar story in Matthew’s book, either Jesus said something different or Matthew included or added an extra detail:
And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful
We started with a clear-cut, black and white moral statement. And now there’s an exception. Then Paul, addressing a specific circumstance in a specific church, adds another, for when the other person doesn’t follow the same Christian way of life, and doesn’t see marriage the same way and they walk away:
(But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.)
1 Corinthians 7
I feel like more nuance might have come out if you asked either Jesus or Paul about situations like domestic abuse…
They’re trying to make a point: marriage is important! It’s sacred! We should value it way more than the surrounding culture! But there also needs to be maturity to be able to recognise the difference between right and wrong, simple rules interpreted simply don’t always cut it.
Endless equivocating and avoiding moral absolutes, and taking an “anything goes” approach also feels like a trap. The wisdom here is not “recognise there is no difference between right and wrong”. That’s not what was said.
Instead, it’s recognising there is a difference, and that with training and skill and maturity, that for a given situation you can know the difference, find what is right, and you can choose to do what is right, to live righteously.
That’s hard work. But it’s a sign of maturity. Let’s train in it.