Philippians 3:12-16 (NIV)
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
“I enjoyed that Mum, I even found myself talking to God and singing a bit while I was running along. What did you think about while you were walking?”.
I’d asked Reuben (12 year old son) on Thursday if he’d come and join me on the local ParkRun. 7am Saturday morning, 5km. “Sure” he said. So we registered.
We turned up this morning as people were gathering and were immediately welcomed warmly. Had the ropes explained to us. No one asked how fit we were or weren’t. They were just happy to see us there. I started fumbling over my words and thankfully stopped short of “Yep, just hoping we don’t come last!” Others shared of their first experiences, and how much they’d improved, but there was no comparing. None.
We started. I had thought a light jog would be a great way to start. Not too ambitious, and there’s room to slow down or, when the time comes, speed up. Ha! Anyway, I’d started. It didn’t take long and Reuben was gone, and I was like, “It’s time for me to slow down. already.” Then, a person who passed me (on the way back around the first marker said, “not bad for a first time” and then another, “keep going!” and it got me thinking.
I haven’t yet experienced any kind of judgement. No one cared how I was dressed. No one asked about times or positions. We were in a team, in a race but the prize wasn’t first place, the prize was finishing.
By now I was fast walking. Just keep moving. was my thinking. But God kept speaking.
A woman ran past, she had a bit of a limp and looked like she was struggling, but just kept going. I was just about the think something fairly judgemental and God pulled me up – “Erin! Seriously! You’re missing the point of this. All of you who are saved through Faith in Jesus Christ are in a race. Stop wasting time wondering how people managed to make it into the race, what time they’ll make, what position they’ll finish in – support them to finish the race regardless.”
We’re a fickle bunch, the Body of Christ. We are actually much fuller of judgement than we would care to consider or acknowledge- and we communicate that judgement in various cringeworthy ways. It’s humbling, very humbling when God highlights this about your own life, your own words, your own actions. It’s almost as if we get to the finish line and we look around us and say, “Yeh, knew they wouldn’t make it over the line without injury. They hardly turned up to Church, rarely quoted scripture and always sat in the back pew.” or “Are you serious!? They made it!”
Our judgemental thoughts and attitudes aren’t just reserved for the finish line though, it’s while we are still running!
As God was whispering words of conviction, I could feel the shift in my Spirit from judgement – about myself and others – to appreciation and empathy, awe and wonder. I stopped trying to run/fast walk to get infront of the person infront of me, and chose to run the race to my best. It’s seems to be a contradiction doesn’t it – we are to behave like a team, in the same race, considering others, cheering each other on, but we run as individuals. This is Gospel Community.
Unity doesn’t mean we cross the line at the same time, or worry about position. Unity means we work together to all, at some point, cross the line. Fullstop.
Diversity doesn’t mean we run individual races with finish lines in different places. No! It means we all run the race, we all have the same finish line, but we each run / walk / stagger through the race, with our different disabilities, walking aids, prams, family pets, but we all have the same goal in mind, which we pursue together – to finish the race.
We need to do this as a Church – the body of Christ. We need to lay down, get rid of, trample our judgemental approach, attitudes and thoughts and take up appreciation and wonder of the work of Jesus Christ in someone’s life. Encourage them! Walk with them! Remove hindrance and stumbling blocks in the path ahead – not just for our benefit, but for the benefit of others in the same race!
We all come with our own handicap or disability to the Christian race. We each have a thorn in our flesh that’s there to remind us that it’s not about our own strength, or Bob’s strength, or Jane’s strength, it’s about Jesus’ strength and His strength is strongest in me, when I am weak. “Am” isn’t an “ok, today I am weak, yesterday I wasn’t weak” kind of am. It’s a, “I’m owning this weakness, I have nothing of any worth to bring to this race. I am weak.” kind of am. When we can truly acknowledge our weakness, it is then and only then that we are able to identify with the strength of Jesus. The, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” kind of strength.
Next time you gather with other Christian people, whether it’s for your Sunday service or another gathering, pause and consider the judgement you bring. Lay it down. Ask God to help you encourage people in their race. Embrace the race.
I’d turned the last marker and was heading back to the finish line. I power walked past the last two ladies approaching the last marker to walk around, and one called out, “You’re nearly home! Keep going!”
God whispered, “Have you heard that from anyone in the Church lately?”
Body of Christ – Speak Life! Put to death words that destroy, entangle and hinder! Whether public, whether private, whether announced or whether secret. Press on Toward the Goal – Finish the Race.