“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT
Inclusivity training in a common standard in businesses and recently we had one at my work. The goal of this training was to help the employees understand that both employee and customer bring bias into their situations at work and how to navigate this bias so it does not display itself in a negative way. Bias has a negative connotation but it does not have to be. Everyone has bias. Bias can be defined as “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned that can affect a person’s actions.” We all have bias and opinion based on our interests, upbringing, affiliations, activities, career, place of residence, and the list goes on and on. The trick is to not let your bias treat anyone differently.
People have no shortage of opinions on things and Christians are not any different. Christians usually have an answer for what they believe and why. They can tell you all about what sin is, what political party to vote for, what grace is and is not, if you can lose your salvation, what denomination to follow, what the end times are going to look like, and especially how OTHER Christians are supposed to behave!
This is especially the case on social media, from what I have seen, the typical Christian typing away responses to online forums or posts to either believers or non, has no shortage of opinions and “facts” based reasons why someone else is wrong and why they are right.
The missing piece to this formula is love…
But what’s love got to do with it?
With discernment, it is very important to know what you believe and why. You should be able to give an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15). The world, the Internet, and books are filled with more information that you can absorb in one lifetime. The Bible has to be the foundation for which all this information is discerned. As we grow in maturity as Christians, we will be more and more confident, moving from milk to solid food as the Bible talks about.
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to truck us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” Ephesians 4:14
As we build a solid foundation in our faith, how does that affect how we treat others?
We should grow in truth but how do we share it?
One of my favorite quotes on this matter is:
“Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth” John Stott
It’s important to note that not all Christians are in the same phase of their walk with the Lord. We are “running the race” as Romans explains, a race has runners at various stages. We can’t look at our position in the race and ridicule them for not being as far along. Encouragement goes a lot farther than discouragement.
This doesn’t mean you have to ignore heretical statements spoken by another Christian but maybe it does? It depends on the situation. If it happens online, you can simply log off or scroll past. If it’s a fellow Christian who has given you a platform to be able to speak in their life, then provide correction with love if they are in a position to hear.
Someone who has been a Christian for a long time can forget what it was like to be first saved. It can be overwhelming at first trying to understand the Bible, the world will tell you that it is filled with contradictions and antiquated ideas that aren’t relevant today. Newer Christians sometimes don’t know where to start, what to study, or even what to believe. If you include the fact that many churches focus on a “salvation message” without encouraging discipleship, newer Christians are left at the starting line without any fellow believers to help them on their journey.
When considering the parallels with a race and our Christian walk a few things come to mind:
• Conditioning– Reading the Bible, exercising your faith, praying, worship, etc. are all ways we grow and practice before “the big game.” We are all in the main event race our whole life but there are smaller races I believe we take part in. These include callings to a new ministry or phase of life, struggling with a battle of health or finances, and facing rejection.
• Endurance– Galatians 6:9 states, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” A marathon is tough and grueling and many just want to quit. Some estimates say that between 10-30% of participants in a marathon do not finish. Christians are falling away from the faith at a record rate. Some have been in the race their whole life and some are newer Christians who decided the cost was too much. We are called to ENDURE!
• Psychological– A big aspect to running a race is not only physical but mental! A runner can be their own worst enemy if they let their mind control their motivation during the race. You’ve heard the phrase “mind over matter”. Your willingness to push yourself can cause you to go further than you thought was physically possible. The same is true in our Christian walk, our doubts and fears can sometimes get the best of us and make us want to quit.
• Encouragement- Do you see the crowds that cheer runners on the side of the road? They cheer, give high fives, and throw water bottles at them as a sign of encouragement. You often see many runners as well encouraging each other along the way, sometimes even finishing with another runner hugging onto their shoulders. Runners can have sponsors as well, which is a close analogy to Christian mentors. We have a “crowd of witnesses” as Hebrews 12:1 states. These are men and women of faith who have gone before us, our family who we long to see again, the men and women of the Bible, and many we don’t even know! They endured the race and made it to the end, cheering us on through the example they set before us. The onus is on us as runners to encourage those around us, realizing we are heading to the same goal.
Paul knew what he was talking about when he compared our Christian walk to a race! Jesus waits for us to finish, ready to say “well done good and faithful servant.” Every pain we face, every doubt we overcome, every battle we wage is worth patiently enduring the journey to get to the finish line and see our Savior at last!
Discerning Reflection: What areas of my life hinder my race? Is there sin that I need to let go of that slows me down? How can I encourage other Christians around me? Who specifically is God calling on me to mentor and disciple?
Prayer: Lord, help me overcome sin that ensnares my race. Let me see with clarity what my eternal goal really is. May I not be consumed with earthly goals that distract me. Help me be an encouragement to those around me while being conscious of the fact that they are in different stages of their race.
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