Hebrews 11:20-12:2 is a brief list of our religious ancestors. It includes people we might expect to be listed: Moses and Abraham for example. However, it includes the unexpected: Rahab (a woman and prostitute who wasn’t an Israelite), Barak (summoned by Deborah but whose ultimate victory was given to a woman, Jael, because of doubt), David (there’s the incident with Bathsheba), Samson (killed Philistines to avenge the loss of his eyes), and more. In today’s world, these would be people we might not welcome into church. They’re people we would look at with suspicion. They are people who would make us uncomfortable and who are not like us. We definitely would not consider them at the “spiritual warrior of faith” level.
Perhaps that’s the point of this list. These are our spiritual ancestors watching over us. They were outsiders who lived a radical care for their neighbors. Their mistakes don’t define their impact or faith.
Is our idea of faith, then, too civilized?
Our faith is wild, raw, untamed, improper. Is that true? Let’s be radically honest here: probably not. We prefer a faith that makes few demands of us, is comfortable, feels controlled or at least something we can control, and has a curated look. We dislike uncertainty and mess. Yet the Creator is found outside the camp getting messy. Just when we feel like we have things figured out, Jesus eliminates boundaries and labels all together.
Cries for change occur when there is a lack of accessibility for all people. Cries for reform highlight words not producing the necessary actions. Each person listed in this passage took action. Jesus threw over all the tables in the temple. Rahab hid spies. Gideon fought battles. Sarah raised a child. The consequences for actions were both positive and negative. However, what brings about powerful deliverance? How can we be co-creators of lasting change in the world?
We move one small step each day towards the light. We do the one next right thing. We let our faith be irrational, messy, and wildly beautiful.