Drifting Away

by Matthew W. Bassford

Hebrews 2:1 contains one of the most sobering warnings in the entire Bible: “For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.” A couple of verses later, the writer uses a rhetorical question to make the point that if we neglect the great salvation we have been given, we will not escape. Nobody turns their back on Jesus and gets away with it!

This is deeply relevant to us for a couple of different reasons. First, it shows that falling away is possible. This truth is bound up in the very language of the text. It is impossible to drift away from a place where you aren’t, and it’s impossible to neglect a salvation you don’t have. Those who teach, then, that true Christians can’t fall away are misguided. We can be in a state of grace now and fall from it later.

Of course, this concept is significant not merely in an abstract, doctrinal sense, but in a personal, concrete sense. I can fall away. You can fall away. The godliest Christian any of us know, the distinguished preacher, the elder of the church, or the devout widow, all of these can fall away.

The fault here is not in Jesus. He has promised that no one will snatch us out of His hand. We are immune to danger from outside forces, but we are not immune to danger from within. We can willingly abandon the safety from which no one can remove us. Indeed, unless we acknowledge the risk and humbly resolve to remain faithful, we infallibly will bring this disaster upon ourselves.

Second, the writer’s word choice also tells us how the disaster will arrive. Drifting away is not a sudden, violent activity. Instead, it happens gradually, slowly, wavelet by wavelet.

Neither is neglect. Neglect is the result of failing to make an effort when the need to act doesn’t seem pressing or important. The lawn doesn’t look much worse today than it looked yesterday, it’s hot out there, and I’d rather spend my Saturday in the woods than behind a lawnmower anyway. However, if I continue to defer exertion, soon the front door is covered in nastygrams from the HOA, and they’re filming episodes of _Tarzan_ in my front yard!

Spiritual disaster advances upon us in the same slow, subtle way. It is the fruit of coming home from a long day of work on Wednesday and deciding that it’s too much effort to round up the kids and get everybody out to Bible class. It is the result of closing our eyes metaphorically to the trashy side of that TV show we love to watch—but not closing them literally. It is the outcome of a thousand tiny enticements to depart from Jesus in a way that still seems safe. Nobody’s going to lose their soul over a Wednesday night or a Netflix drama, are they?

The problem is, though, that the more we draw away, the more reasonable extreme departures become. Maybe a steamy period romance isn’t that far away from godliness, but neither is pornography that far away from steamy romances, nor an affair from porn. It’s extremely easy for us to find ourselves in a spiritual position where we never intended to be. The only way to make sure that we don’t drift away is to make sure that we don’t drift.

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