Running Together

January 2019
Jeremiah Krieger
 
Col. 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
 
When I was the age that my own children are now, my parents faithfully took us to AWANA. AWANA was a big deal. I loved memorizing the verses and getting my sections marked off. I also loved the game time. We took that time seriously every week because we trained for one purpose: AWANA Olympics.
 
My older brother and I were an even height, so we would always be paired for the three-legged race. For the three-legged race to work, there was a strong piece of velcro strap that bound our ankles together. Our arms would lock around each other’s waist. We would count out loud, “One, two, one, two, one, two,” over and over again as we walked in stride.
 
After we mastered walking together we were able to work our way up to a sprint. It was a seamless stride. When the Olympics came, we were ready. As we sprinted around the circle we would quickly catch up to other teams who hobbled out of sync. We would tag them and they would be disqualified as we zoomed past. We torched the other teams in the AWANA Olympics because we were in stride together.
 
The three-legged race can be both painful to watch and painful to participate in when there is not synchronized unity. Pairs of runners who are not strapped together and moving in sync will stumble, or they might completely fall on the ground so that, in either case, they don’t win in the end.
 
In an illustration of training, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Church at Corinth to compete with an attitude to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). One of the biggest obstacles to Corinth being a winning church was a lack of unity in their local church.
 
The warning of Paul is that lack of discipline in this area can disqualify our ministry (v. 27). When a watching world sees the church hobbling along and falling on its face, they watch and say to themselves, “Ouch! I don’t want to be a part of that!” And in that sense we have disqualified ourselves from beating our competitors (Ultimately Satan), the temptations and lures of the world that have captured the hearts of man and kept them from their Savior. In short, we will fail to win hearts for Jesus.
 
While disunity is one of the greatest obstacles today that keeps churches from winning, there is a way to unify. There is a “velcro strap” and “arms that lock the waists together” so that we can run in stride and beat the competition: Love…Love that exemplifies itself in compassion, kindness, meekness, patience, and forgiveness.
 
The discipline of sacrificial love and forgiveness must be practiced by the church in stride, “One, two. One, two.” Over and over again. It will take humility and compassion, the willingness to seek to understand another’s position. The willingness to take responsibility for our own mistakes. The willingness to seek forgiveness and extend it.
 
Recently, I was sharing a “frustration” with a friend of mine. He said, “You sound bitter.” I said, “I’m not bitter. I’m just frustrated because…” I was trying to justify myself, I suppose. But later I went home and looked up the word bitter and found out that my friend was right. As I thought about the root of my bitterness, I had to forgive. Once I forgave, I no longer felt frustrated. I also discovered that I had actually caused a large part of my own frustration and found an area to grow— all this without having to confront anyone about their “problem” that may have led to the frustration. I was the problem.
 
When we stumble, let’s not quit. Let’s not give up on each other. We need to get back up and practice some more. That’s how we win the race. Practice. Let’s practice love and forgiveness as a regular part of our lives. How regular? As often as we need it. Daily. Moment by moment. That often.
 
When Thomas Edison was working on his invention of the light bulb, it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs.
 
Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. Can guess what happened. The boy dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. The exhausted Edison who was ready for a break, was now ready to have his bulb carried back up the stairs again. He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one.
 
As a church we must be disciplined in love and forgiveness. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all sin and are sinners until the day we die. As a result, we will regularly need the forgiveness of Christ (and his blood cleanses every sin). We also need to regularly be forgiven by one another and regularly extend forgiveness to one another. Whether an offense is intentional or not, we must practice discipline if we are going to have an effective ministry. This discipline must start with our own self, in our own families and it must be practiced in our church between individuals and families.
 
As 2019 starts, let’s all consider how we can do better this coming year than previous years. Is there someone you are bitter towards? If you have gone to another and said, “I’m frustrated about…” then you might be bitter. Seek to forgive and accept that person. When necessary, go to that person with a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Seek to work it out. Unsynchronized disunited ministry will break us apart, but if we strap ourselves together with love and forgiveness, we can have our best year yet.
 
Pastor Jeremiah Krieger