What does the so refer to? Does it refer to Jesus’ example or does it refer to a loving God who disciplines us for our good? Does it matter? For me it doesn’t. We have many reasons, more than we can count if we really thought about it, to want to finish the race.
So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it! (Hebrews 12:12,13 MSG)
Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message is not word for word accurate, but I think it captures the sense of what the author is trying to communicate. We are in a race, but it is a very strange race. The goal is not winning but finishing. I will never run a marathon. I can walk at 4 miles per hour for 30 minutes, but at that rate it would take me over 6.5 hours to finish. That assumes that I could keep up that pace for 6.5 hours. That just isn’t on my list of things I want to accomplish. I do want to finish the spiritual race and writer tells me I’ll probably need help. So, will you.
There are two threats to avoid. The first will discourage us and has caused many to stop running. The second will distract us and cause us to choose a different race.
Everyone who has been a part of a church for any length of time has experienced the hurt that comes from sinners bumping into each other. Hurt too often becomes bitterness and bitterness divides people and discourages everyone as we fail to see the love of Christ at work. We are imperfect, and we do things to hurt each other all the time, even when we have the best of intentions. Isolating ourselves from one another is not the solution. Not only is it not Biblical, but it quickly leads to threat number two. The writer’s recommendation is to never let bitterness happen. This means being aware of the relational health of our fellow runners and a willingness to fight for relational healing when hurt occurs. Experience tells me that this takes intentional effort that doesn’t always work, but I have no doubt that the effort is worth it.
As hard as relational health is to maintain, I think this second threat is even harder for us. The threat is unholiness, falling for the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. We live in a world full of distractions. It is wonderful that most of you hold in your hand a device that gives you instant access to a wealth of information, including this blog. However, that same capability opens the door to a world of temptations of all sorts. Of course, it isn’t the smart phone that is the issue. It’s me. I have a fear of missing out and that leads me to justify choices that I know don’t keep me running the race toward heaven. We know we all have these temptations and the challenge is how do we help each other. Our culture says to mind our own business and that won’t help. Jesus says we are to love one another and that means we must mind each other’s business.
Here’s the questions for today. Do you have someone running this race with you that you have given permission to challenge a bad choice you’re about to make? Do you have someone you’re running this race with that you love enough that you would do anything to keep them from making a choice with negative eternal consequences?