By Jairo Namnún
Sports are not my thing. I watch the NBA finals when friends invite me because I don’t want to be that guy. But I might have actually made a shot three or four times. However, I can proudly say that as an eleven-year-old, I was once responsible for winning a basketball game for my entire country. And let me tell you, my teammates were grateful.
Living on the beautiful island of the Dominican Republic, we’re used to playing at sea level, with the sun out and in warm weather. But when my school was invited on a student exchange to Mexico, we were unprepared for a basketball match at an elevation of 2,660 meters and 50℉. My classmates were all taller and great at the sport, but the altitude and the cold had them at their limit. That’s where I came in. Because I was the only extra player, my only job was to come in when one of them was exhausted and stand there and jog to ensure we still had five people on the team. And because I was there, we won—just barely.
Reading Hebrew 12 calls you to run the race. Have you noticed, though, that it doesn’t call “you”—singular—but “you”—plural?
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us. —Hebrews 12:1
Over and over again, most of the commandments in Scripture, including this call to endurance, are commandments for communities, not for individuals. Yes, the Christian race is a marathon, not a sprint. And marathons are run in large groups, not in singles.
We see something similar in 1 Corinthians 9:24–27. When Paul says that he disciplines his body, he compares it to “runners in a stadium”. We individually discipline our bodies so that “we [receive] an imperishable crown” (v.25). We do, not I.
In this way, even those who are not great at sports can play a part. If we were always in perfect conditions, if the race was short, if we didn’t have adversaries, then maybe we could go at it alone. But we will experience trials (James 1:2), the race will require endurance, and we will need discipline. So we need others, the apparently strong and the evidently weak, running side by side, and some sitting as witnesses having completed their races—we are all in this together.
And here’s what’s unbelievable. The One who gives us the call to endurance endured it first. The community He calls us to is the one He has made. He’s on our team—or rather, we’re on His team. So we don’t need to be the best there is; we need to endure faithfully. It’s okay if we’re jogging around, losing our breath. He’s run the race first, and because of the cross, there’s no way we can lose.