By: Matt Boness
I have a friend who is a professional runner. He qualified for the Olympic trials marathon this last February. There were tons of guys faster than him and only the top three finishers get to go to the Olympics and represent the United States.
Running is an interesting sport because it’s not always about who is the outright fastest, but who can be the smartest. My buddy knew that if he stayed with all those other fast guys for the whole race, eventually, he wouldn’t be able to keep up and they would run away from him, giving him no chance to qualify. However, if he could go out so far in the front of the race and stay there, before anyone else was willing to run that fast so early on in the marathon, he might have a chance of holding off even the fastest competitors. He went for it.
Right around mile 8 of 26.2, he took the lead of the race. His lead grew so large that he had nearly 1 minute of time between him and the next competitor behind him. To put that into perspective, these guys are running right around five-minute miles (two hours and eleven minutes for the full marathon). Someone would have to run 4:50 miles (2 hours and 6 minutes for the full distance) for 6 miles just to make up the difference. Almost impossible if my friend could keep up his pace. It was a huge, defining moment in the race.
Courage is the willingness to do something that our heart and mind say that we should think otherwise about. They may not be career defining, like my friend in his race, but courage is not bound by a size restriction. Maybe starting a new hobby. Maybe telling someone the honest truth when we would rather keep it silent. Maybe loving someone who others think is unlovable. We find in the story of Jesus, that he was willing to have a “career defining” moment in front of the Jewish leaders.
Just days before Jesus was to be crucified, he entered the temple in Jerusalem. He had earned a name for himself and the leaders in the temple knew it. These men, these Pharisees and Sadducees, had the power of his life in their hands. They had the power of the people, supposedly of God himself, and the protection of the Roman government behind them. When they decided to question Jesus’ authority (Matthew 21:23-27), Jesus did something that most would back down from. He challenged them.
He stood there, answering their questions; questions intended to trip him up to say something blasphemous, and spoke to them in parables of what is right and wrong in the eyes of God. The really challenging part of the whole conversation was that the parables Jesus used were directly antithetical to how the leaders were living and leading their lives. He was saying that everything they knew, worked for, believed and trusted in was wrong. No wonder they decided they needed to kill him (Matthew 26:3-4).
Jesus stood there and courageously spoke against the brokenness of life. Saying the things most of us would avoid. The very things he said sealed his fate on the cross, yet he said them anyway. He spoke out because he loves his people. He knew he had to say those things, and that though they would lead to his death, they too would pave the path for his resurrection. He said them so that we would truly recognize life when we saw it get up and walk.
What does our mess look like? Maybe it’s not a situation that requires us to speak up against the very powers that could end our life. Maybe it’s speaking out against injustice toward the orphan and widow. Maybe it’s having integrity to correct an issue that doesn’t benefit us. Whatever our place in life, whatever mess we face, may we approach it with courage and boldness and love. May we strike off with all we got on a race we cannot win, knowing we’ve already qualified in Jesus.
Lord, help us to act in courageous ways to speak love into a messy, broken world. Amen.