“Mornings at about 6 am, I’d seem him on the track of the local YMCA – a small steam engine of a man in a navy sweat suit, sneakers plodding past as I walked a warm-up lap. Back bent, shoulders stooped, gray hair receding, he’d chug steadily past.
Bath is a small city, small enough that many of the same people who grew up here and graduated from Morse High School are still around, teaching kindergarteners how to kick a soccer ball behind the Rec. Department, slapping tickets on cars parked too long in front of Reny’s, scanning groceries at Shaw’s. It is small enough to run into people you recognize, such as early-morning exercisers.
“Morse right?” another walker called out as the runner jogged past. “What’d you play?”
“Wrestling ’58 and ’59,” he called over his shoulder without slowing. “Football ’58 through ’61.”
I imagined this man, decades earlier, as a husky teenager running laps around a football field while his coach called directions from the sidelines. How proud his coach would be, I thought, so many years later, to see this man still running.
Scripture repeatedly likens the Christian life to a running a race – a race in which everyone who runs well receives the prize. To win, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, who the author of Hebrews calls, “the author and perfecter of our faith.” In other words, he’s our coach, and he’s given us clear directions: to live generously, to love liberally, and to serve sacrificially as we follow him.
Two-thousand years after those words were written, it’s impossible to check the news without being confronted by the overwhelming desperation of 11 million displaced Syrians fleeing their homes, living in tent cities, crowding in boats and trains and trucks in search of safety. A recent Washington Post photo essay showed a dozen or so Syrian refugees swimming–swimming–across the Mediterranean in life jackets and inner tubes in a desperate attempt to reach safety. While governments debate who should take them, it’s easy to pretend that we ourselves can do nothing.
Yet for those who are running the race to win – for those still following the coach – passivity is not an option. If you, like me, are stretching your budget every which way to meet your current needs, pray and ask God what you might give up so that you might give more.
Imagine those were your family members, your friends. Study their photos. Recognize yourself in their faces the way you recognize people around town, because we are in this human race together. This is an enormous crisis, but we serve an even bigger God. And, regardless of someone’s race or religious beliefs or nationality, he has equipped us to help. We are made in God’s image–all of us. And we who bear God’s image are called to bear the burdens of others.
This is our highest calling as Christians: to purely reflect the image of God as we serve and love one another.
Churches across the globe are doing just this, mobilizing their congregations to help alleviate the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since World War II. To find specific ways your congregation can give, go to www.wewelcomerefugees.com
Then sit down with your family and decide what God is calling you to do.
“Let us not lose heart in doing what is good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are in the household of faith,” Galatians 6:9-10.
Let’s make our coach proud.
Let’s keep running.