I’ve decided to start running again. Ugh.
I’ve always enjoyed sports, but sports with an object or goal, - like a hoop, or a net in which points are scored. Win or lose. Running is just the painful experience of jostling internal organs and aching feet heading in an arbitrary direction for some distance.
Only good thing: you don’t need a ball or nets or anyone to go running. You JUST DO IT.
I saw my doctor recently, and after my physical she said, “Do you exercise?” I mentioned my weekly basketball game with the guys, and she said, “We’re looking for an hour a day, five days a week.
So I’m running. Surrendering to the pain, not for scoring glory but just seeking to go the distance.
And I’m struck as I travel down the road that many stories about the early Christians were about running the race, or continuing on the Emmaus road (11km jaunt), or when Jesus rose from the dead and then told the women to tell his disciples, “I’ll meet you in Galilee. Take a hike and meet me there.” Yeah, a 100km hike (at least a 3 day journey, or less if you are an ultra-marathoner).
Why is Jesus into distances? Why not just meet up right there in Jerusalem?
Jesus himself went the distance. As a church we just celebrated Passion week (and what a great celebration!), a week that culminates in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. We think passion means “strong emotion” but the early church developed this word from “passio” meaning “patient surrender.” Clearly Jesus’ going willfully to his death involved a long journey of rejection and suffering for our sake and our salvation. He did not rail against the injustice that was leveled against him, but endured.
I was hit by the news this week of the 147 Kenyan students, mostly Christians, massacred by terrorists. And not long ago 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by extremists. I am honestly struggling with how as a Christian I should respond to such hatred and violence. Vengeance drives nearly every action movie, and I have watched more than a few. And with all those Marvel-ous heroes with their superpowers unleashing justice on the earth. How about Jesus brings the smite just this once?
The trouble is our own anger and sin would make us smite-able as well. Just getting cut off driving in traffic gets me going, let alone experiencing any real injustice. I find (and I’m guessing you do too) that wrongful actions of others stir up my own sinful, exaggerated responses.
Honestly, a spiritual heart check up would undoubtedly find my forgiveness flabby and my serving muscles atrophied.
The radical, loving response of others helps wake me up to my need to get in spiritual shape. I was shocked when I heard what the mother of one executed Coptic Christian wants: to invite all the assassins over for to their home so they could tell them they forgave them because of Jesus.
Why did that surprise me? Forgiveness like this stops me in my tracks, sits me down, and makes me realize that truly Jesus’ kingdom is completely out of this world. This mom embodies Jesus not only to these extremists but to all the world, because she demonstrates Jesus’ passion – his surrender, patience, and love through difficulty.
Now Jesus turns to us, and bids us to go the distance with Him, enduring the pain, forgiving others, finding life not in a desperate attempt to keep our own, but by surrendering our life to Him.
May He give us, and all His worldwide Church, the strength to run the whole distance.
Steve and his family are from California where it barely rains, and they moved to Vancouver 11 years ago where it barely doesn’t rain. Dual citizens now, the Colbys are fluent in both Canadian and American English, enough to be thoroughly confused. (What did I used to call a tuque? Surely not beanie…? ) Steve and Susie both serve nationally with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Steve as the National Director of Missions. His favourite teammates in missions are his family: Susie, and kids --Caleb, Phoebe, and Lily.
You can read more of his missions thoughts and ramblings at www.missionpilgrims.com