For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.Galatians 5:14-15
Cross country running is no joke. This is particularly true here in Tennessee where summer has dug in her heels, refusing to give way to autumn. Because of this, I have tremendous admiration for my youngest daughter and her friends (many of whom I’ve unofficially adopted) on our school’s cross country team.
I’ll admit today is a breezy 88 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s small comfort when even the trees are calling it quits and dropping their leaves under the relentless sun.
But my cross country kids don’t quit. They persevere.
At the last race, I darted from place to place yelling my atta-boys to the kids as they pushed through temperatures in excess of 96 degrees Fahrenheit/35 degrees Celsius.
Several of the kids have their own health conditions to deal with, making running harder, but they ran it anyway. Occasionally, there’s vomiting along the way, but the kids keep going. Some are faster, others not so fast, yet we scream just as loudly no matter where our runners fall in the pack.
Those who are finished or waiting to run stand alongside the parents, yelling encouragement or handing out water in the chute after the finish line.
These kids are fighters. They stick to it even when it’s tough and they take care of each other. They’ll run beside a struggling teammate. Sometimes, they sacrifice their own race time to stick by the side of a friend in distress.
Suddenly, it hit me why I love these kids so fiercely. They are a microcosm of Christian community done well.
Brothers and sisters, we who are in Christ are not in opposition to one another. We are a team.
We’re running this race together, and we’re running it for the glory of our King. Not for our own prestige. For Christ’s.
When one of our brothers or sisters stumble, we ought to lend our presence and support. When their strength falters, we can run alongside them, offering encouragement.
No matter where they are in the race – way ahead or far behind – we should be there on the sidelines, cheering as madly as if they were in first place.
After all, sometimes just the running is grueling. Even if our runner finishes dead last, at least he ran. At least she finished.
When our own run is a battle through difficult circumstances, we run anyway. We press on to the finish.
We should know each other well enough to know the secret battles we fight, the burdens others carry that make even putting one foot in front of the other a struggle. We ought to shout our support all the louder for it.
In fact, as long as our fellows are running towards the finish line and not away from it, we should be their most fervent supporters!
And if they become disoriented and turn the wrong way, we need to have the guts to step in and point them in the right direction, running right by their side to show them the way.
Did I say we’re a team? It’s more. We are a family. Different parts of one Body.
Our job isn’t to critique each other’s form or ability. Instead, we ought to be sharing in the effort it takes to pursue holiness in a broken and sick world. In broken and sick bodies.
The race is hard. Some days are worse than others. We need each other. We need to take care of each other. The world surely won’t.
So what do you say? Let’s make it our goal to finish strong and not grow weary; to enter the chute on both feet. And let’s help our brothers and sisters any way we can, every step of the way. Even if it costs us personally.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:1-2