Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.
If you want to keep from becoming faint-hearted and weary, think about his patience as sinful men did such terrible things to him. Hebrews 12: 1-3 (TLB)
"And so I am giving a new commandment to you now - love each other just as much as I love you." John 13: 34 (TLB)
Kirsten Panachyda lives in New York. As she got home with a car full of groceries, her buddies - a pair of four-foot-tall sandhill cranes who wander the neighborhood - foraged in the yard. Kirsten sang out, "Hi, guys!" She loves these birds, but that day they stalked toward her. Instead of admiring their red and gray plumage, all Kirsten saw were six-inch beaks. It felt risky to walk past them, so she retreated from them. She might feel safer if she never encountered the cranes, but she prefers enduring a few risky moments to forgoing the joy they bring her.
Loving people is risky too and can carry a sharp risk of hurt or loss. Relationships and ministries of all types make us vulnerable as we open our hearts to others. For Kirsten, parenting her son, who suffers from bipolar disorder, is sometimes exhausting and heartbreaking. But it is also one of the great privileges and joys of her life. She would rather risk grief than not love him.
When we are tempted to withdraw from loving people wholeheartedly, we can take courage from Jesus' example. He accepted the danger of loving us and never retreated. He was willing to risk it all on the cross because of his love for us, and we are called to love others the way Christ loves us.
Prayer: Dear lord, help us to love like you. Encourage us to be brave and vulnerable with others, in Jesus' name, amen.