This is a marvelous passage from Hebrews.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I really like it. I like the imagery of running the race. On one hand, it is work. On the other, it is of limited duration. I love the "cloud of witnesses" thing (drawing from the previous "faith chapter"). We're not alone; we are the Communion of the Saints. I love the idea of a Christ-focus. "Looking unto Jesus" it says. And I dearly love the phrase about Christ enduring the cross "for the joy that was set before Him." We could learn from Him there.
The one that struck me recently, however, was that "lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely" phrase. I guess I just thought about it as "sin" and enjoyed all that other good stuff. Now I'm giving it more thought. You see, the author lists "every weight and sin". So there are two things in view here -- sin and other things. Now, I get that sin weighs us down in our race for Christ. That's a given. But apparently there are other "weights", other things that slow us down that are not sin.
What kinds of non-sin things slow us down in our race? I can think of quite a few that we keep laying around. There is television, once referred to as a "boob tube". It doesn't provide much benefit. Studies have even shown that there is more brain activity when we sleep than when we watch TV. But we're still in front of it for hours. There is this thing in front of me right now ... my computer. How much time do we spend in front of screens? Doing what? No, maybe it's not all sinful. Maybe it's just amusement. But David wrote, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless." (Psalm 101:3) David wasn't merely concerned about the bad; he was also concerned about the worthless. In Psalm 119, the psalm in praise of God's Word, the psalmist writes, "Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in Your ways." (Psalm 119:37) So, less "worthless" and more "Your ways." There is amusement, entertainment, fun. Not bad on its own, but does it weigh us down? Does it cling to us? Does it slow us in our race? I think so.
We are up in arms at times about the "evils" of our society while we blindly embrace so much that is wrong. We salute American independence when we are to be "slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18). We swallow their education with its humanism and materialism and science as god and must (but may not) strain out the garbage. We applaud their values in things like how to raise children (e.g., Proverbs 23:14; Proverbs 29:14), roles of women (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:9-14; Ephesians 5:22-24), and authority in the home (1 Corinthians 11:3). How do you think we've arrived at the place where Christians no longer think contraception, abortion, sex outside of marriage, divorce, and much more are sins? We've swallowed their values without evaluating them against Scripture. They've become unconscious weights.
How much are we slowed by what we own? Or what we want to own? How much of our lives are spent "trying to get ahead" instead of running the race? How many of us, in our drive to "have", find ourselves enslaved by what we have? These things aren't sin as much as weights, slowing our run. In the Arabic version of this Hebrews verse, the "weight" is specified as "the weight of luxury". How much are we slowed in our run to Christ by what we have?
There is a big problem with both of us in our baggage of people's perceptions. We keep our mouths shut for Christ because we're afraid of what people might think. We hold ourselves back because of friends and family who may not think well of us for standing on God's Word. We drag around our concern for the displeasure of others in our race, and it doesn't help.
I'm sure I've only scratched the surface. I'm sure you can come up with your own. Are you willing to do so? Not my problem. But we have a race to run. Surrounded by a great "cloud of witnesses", we certainly need to set aside the sin that slows us and run to Jesus. If we are serious about Him, we also need to figure out what extra baggage we are carrying, even if it isn't sin, that slows us from our race to Christ. How important is that to you?
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