Knocking Each Other Down in the Race

hamblin dagostino 2

My family loves the Olympics. My husband and I plant our chubby bodies firmly on the couch and watch super-athletes perform the most incredible feats, while we eat ice cream topped brownies with hot fudge. As we watch these young people compete, we are truly amazed what a human is capable of. But sometimes, something really special happens in the Olympic games-and it isn’t always about winning a medal. British runner Mo Farah, for example. Coming into the 2016 games he was the reigning men’s 10,000-meter gold medalist. During his race he stumbled and fell. A fall usually means a runner can say goodbye to a medal, don’t even think about the gold. But Farah understood that the race is long and you for sure can’t win the prize if you stay down, so he got up. And then he won the race.

But an even cooler thing happened during the women’s 5,000-meter qualifier. Two runners, Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States collided causing both runners to hit the ground. Hamblin, dazed, was unable to immediately get up. Still in shock from the sudden fall, she felt a hand on her shoulder and heard a voice say, “Get up, we have to finish this.” Of course it was D’Agostino. With this encouragement, Hamblin was able to get up and continue her race. However, once they were both running again, that is when it became clear that D’Agostino had sustained an injury. Hamblin hung with her a while, but then had to go on to complete her race. After crossing the finish line, Hamblin turned to see the D’Agostino was still running. She was injured, she was limping, but she kept going until she crossed the finish line-where Hamblin was waiting and cheering, ready to embrace D’Agostino when she crossed that line. By choosing to help one another, both allowed precious seconds to tick off the clock towards the goal of making the finals. D’Agostino did not yet know how injured her leg was. Hamblin hung back to make sure D’Agostino would be okay before moving ahead with her race. As a wannabe runner who has run a few races, I know that D’Agostino would have urged Hamblin to go on with her race.

The Bible likens the Christian life to an endurance race. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Philippians 2:16 talks about not wanting to run in vain. 2 Timothy 2:7 says, “I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” So, if we think about the Christian life in these terms, what is the takeaway? It is important to note here that Hamblin and D’Agostino ran into each other. Actually, it is very likely that D’Agostino is the one who ran into Hamblin, given that within the crowded pack of runners it was D’Agostino who was running just behind Hamblin. In the end, though, they caused each other to fall. We often think of falling more in terms of Mo Farah’s situation. He stumbled, whether it was a faulty foot fall, shoe lace, whatever it was, a circumstance lead Farah to fall and he got back up and finished his race. And that is a great analogy. But very often the reality of walking out our Christian faith is much more like Hamblin and D’Agostino. They were in a tightly packed crowd of runners, everyone staying tight in so as not to lose ground. These runner packs are the most dangerous times for runners because of how close they are, it is extremely easy for one runner to inadvertently trip another runner or even collide with anther runner. It happens all the time. The same is true in our own race as believers. When we are running close together, it is inevitable that we will accidently trip each other up. Miscalculations happen. Sometimes our timing is just a little off or our judgement slightly skewed. But what is important is what we do after the fact. When I saw the photos of those two runners, the one reaching out a hand to help the other up, then embracing at the end of the race, I thought-that’s it! That is exactly how the Christian life should look. When D’Agostino tapped Hamblin on the shoulder and said, “Get up! We have to finish this,” there was no discussion of who tripped who, no worry about how helping the other would affect their own chances at a win, there were simply two fellow Olympians standing back up to finish the race. This is much like the Scripture which tells us “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV). We do not run our race alone. God expects us to run the race together and He knows that we will cause one another to stumble, so he gave us a long list of “one anothers” to cover every circumstance:

  • Accept one another-Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Rom. 15:7)
  • Admonish one another-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)
  • Bear one another’s burdens-Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)
  • Put up with one another-Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. (Eph. 4:2)
  • Build up one another-Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Rom. 14:19)
  • Care for one another-So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Cor. 12:25)
  • Comfort one another-Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thess. 4:18)
  • Confess faults to one another-Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
  • Be Devoted to one another-Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. (Rom. 12:10a)
  • Encourage one another-Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • Fellowship with one another-But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. (1 Jn. 1:7)
  • Forgive one another-Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)
  • Be Honest with one another-Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices . . . (Col. 3:9)
  • Honor one another-Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12:10b)
  • Be Hospitable to one another-Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Pet. 4:9)
  • Be Kind to one another-Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)
  • Love one another-Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another . . . (Rom. 13:8)
  • Members one of another-So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom. 12:5)
  • Pray for one another-Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
  • Be of the Same Mind with one another-May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves (original=same mind among each other) as you follow Christ Jesus . . . (Rom. 15:5)
  • Serve one another-You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13)
  • Spur one another on-And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)
  • Submit to one another-Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)

Within these verses is the forgone conclusion that we will need to practice what they contain. These verses are not talking about how we treat the world, (though that is important as well) they are talking about how we treat each other! We will need to confess faults, forgive, encourage, pray for, serve, be kind, build up, put up with and love one another! And when we knock each other down, let us, like D’Agostino and Hamblin, waste no time with vain arguments and blame but rather “Spur one another on to love and good deeds.”

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16, ESV)