Running has never been an activity which I’ve enjoyed. Sports have been a delight to me since childhood but running, with no ball, nobody pursuing, no threat of tackle or interruption…that has never been something I’ve enjoyed. In the past I’ve bought treadmills (plural), only to turn around and sell them when it no longer made sense to keep them for the purposes of hanging my clothes on them. Running improves your body’s health, muscular development, cardiovascular and respiratory functions and stamina. None of that changes the fact that I just don’t enjoy running. In school, I only made one C, and it was in 9th grade PE, because there was a six week stint on the track where Coach Flannagan informed us that we would run in circles to earn a grade. My inner-child instead assumed the lotus position, and I suffered a downward trend in my grade because running alone in a circle seemed pointless to me. I’d like to add today that, as a follower of Christ, I still believe it is worthless to run alone.
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” – 2 Timothy 2:22
Paul wrote the young pastor, Timothy, to instruct him in shoring up his ministry and personal testimony. First Timothy is a grand work in Scripture to benefit all pastors, but it is also invaluable for any of us who are running our race in the faith. Paul here employs the imagery of athletics, and tells Timothy to sprint away in the opposite direction of unhealthy passions associated with young men. He then tells him to run after righteousness, faith, love and peace, tracking them down like a hunter until he procures them as a valued prize. What captures my attention today is that Paul makes a point of commanding Timothy to do these things “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”. Paul tells his young friend to remember that living out his faith is not a solo sprint. He would need to run life’s race alongside of others.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to do this life shoulder to shoulder with other believers. There is something powerful about connecting with those who have been made one with God through the work of Jesus Christ. I suppose that there is a certain amount of this joy that is merely relational, as we are pleased at seeing and being with those whom we share life’s direction and beliefs. More deeply, however, is the reality that God has spiritually fused all of His children together, and there exists an intangible component, impossible to fully define, that brings a sense of cohesiveness to us when we connect with each other for worship, instruction, service and oneness. Something inside of us exposes the fraudulent belief that we can enjoy God fully while living perpetually disconnected from other believers. God’s Spirit within us resonates with God’s Spirit in others because Christ lived, died and rose again so that we would be one. If you read John, chapter 17, you will find that Jesus prayed to the Father repeatedly that we would live out the reality of the oneness that all of us posses in our unity with Christ. Jesus even went so far as to ask that we would experience the reality of oneness with each other that He possessed with the Father (John 17:20-22). That’s a staggering thought! We are to experience the depth of our oneness with each other to the same degree that God the Father and God the Son are in oneness. There should be no wonder that the followers of Christ love to live and worship and serve alongside of each other. He has made us to be one in Christ, and then He afford us the ultimate opportunity to see that reality with our eyes, to hear it with our ears, to validate it with our own participation and to enjoy it in our souls.
I discovered decades ago on that High School track that God didn’t make me to run alone. We were born to live alongside of one another, and not just in some clinical, doctrinal token-acknowledgement that we are positionally united in Christ. It’s so much deeper and essential than that. Our oneness is real in Heaven, and it must be lived out on earth for us to fathom the depth of God’s love for His people. God wants us to intentionally and increasingly live life together as we discern the return of Christ approaching (Hebrews 10:25). Christians are not hermits who stay isolated, or even hobbits who long for a small, safe group tucked away with us in the shire.
We are together-people, group-people, connected-people, unified-people.
We are a family with an awesome Father.
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