Earlier this week, the Olympics in Rio provided us with a tremendous example of sportsmanship and all that is good in the world. Runners Nikki Hamblin (NZ) and Abbey D’Agostino (USA) tripped and fell to the ground during their race. While Hamblin lay there, D’Agostino grabs her shoulder and urges her, “Get up, Get up! We have to finish. This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this.” She did get up and eventually both runners finished the race in what many are calling the “ultimate display of the Olympic spirit.” (You can read the full story here.)
Moments like this really are what the Olympics are all about and this certainly is a touching example of true sportsmanship. However, I also see this as a wonderful illustration of what the church should be. When I first saw this story, I immediately thought of Hebrews 10:24 which says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” That is exactly what the American Olympian did for her fellow competitor. She spurred her on! She urged her toward a better finish. She compelled her to achieve what was good and pushed her to overcome her desire to give up. This is admirable in an athlete and even more so in a genuine Christ-follower.
Churches are filled with broken and hurting people who have fallen and are considering giving up in life. They are contemplating giving up on a relationship or giving up their faith or giving up their fight against an addiction or some other sin. Whatever it is specifically, they feel like they are down for the count. They have fallen for the last time. And far too often there is a multitude of people waiting to swarm and confirm their feelings of failure. We affirm their choice to give up with comments like, “You don’t have enough faith” or “They just aren’t serious enough about their faith.” We call them hypocrites, we call them unholy, we mock their failure and we avoid them so that their sinfulness doesn’t rub off on us. And this is precisely the worst, most unchristian response imaginable.
Indeed, the response of the church should be love and encouragement. We should be each other’s greatest cheerleaders. We should urge one another to get up! Genuine Christ-followers must spur one another on: “Don’t stay down! We can finish together. You can overcome!” This should be the anthem of the church. We must encourage one another to fight the good fight and to finish the race. Urge one another toward a better finish. We must compel our brothers and sisters to achieve what is good and holy and right. We must push them to overcome dangerous and sinful desires to give up. We must also run with them, showing them they are not alone.
I urge you to think right now about the broken people you know. How can you encourage them? You can pray for them, but better yet – pray with them. Call them up or seek them out and ask to pray with them. Send a card. Offer to help. Smile. Include them. Praise them for something that they’re getting right. Send them scripture in a text or an email. There are endless numbers of ways that we can encourage each other and I challenge you to pick even one and put it into practice in your church and community. Feel free to comment with your stories of encouraging or being encouraged. I’d love to hear how God is directing His followers to say “Get up, let’s finish strong together!”