Run the Race

By Pastor David Bond

I am not a runner. My philosophy on running is this: one should only run when a) you are running away from something dangerous i.e. a bear or b) you are running towards something delicious i.e. a cupcake. This philosophy becomes problematic every year around September when our church hosts the Swazi 5K. It’s on this day every year that my passions against running are reaffirmed.

This year was no different. Everything started off great, as it always does. It was after the first kilometer that my lack of training became apparent. I knew I couldn’t keep this pace going much longer, let alone finish the race if I didn’t slow down a little. As I was trying to catch my breath, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, I wish I was a banana again.”

No, I wasn’t hallucinating, or at least I think I wasn’t. You have to understand that this thought was paired with a memory of a previous Swazi 5K in which a couple of friends and myself decided to run the race differently. None of us were particularly thrilled with the notion of running the race. So we had to improvise. The decision was made that we would dress up in costumes. More specifically, the plan was to dress up as bananas and gorillas.

The theory behind such a decision was truly brilliant if you think about it. We tricked ourselves into having fun and tricked everyone else into thinking we were so good at running that we could do it dressed as bananas and gorillas. We could run, walk, stop, and take short cuts and all anyone thought was how goofy we were. As the race progressed, the gorillas would chase after the bananas, and only caught up to them at the end of the race in a dramatic slow motion finish.

I remember finishing, and though I was tired, I realized what a blast the race had been. Not only had it been enjoyable having three people to run with me, but the experience was enriched by laughs and cheers from the other racers. I guess this is how normal people feel after finishing a race.

Hebrews 12:1-2 say this “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

For me, this Scripture has never been one of my favorites. I never relished the comparison between my faith journey and running. However, in my hurry to judge the passage I overlooked the crucial point where WE are called to run the race. The race is communal. We are not just individual participators, but we are teammates running together.

What does this mean? It means that we were created for relationship. Our faith journey, something that we traditionally see as intimate and personal, is to be shared with one another. Our relationship with Christ encompasses more than what happens in the solitude of our devotions. Though this is important in helping us become more like Christ, maybe the best way to replicate His image is through the messiness and diversity of a relationship. As we run together, we learn how to help each other with the burdens of life and encourage each other when we feel like quitting.

The truth is, when we sign up to be a Christian we sign up to run the race differently. Imagining this passage through the eyes of a banana is a stretch, but at least it allows us to see the joy and gift of being called to live in relationship with one another as we all run the race.