Brothers and sisters, join in
imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in
us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of
them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is
the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly
things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are
expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our
humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that
also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and
sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in
this way, my beloved.
I’ve been watching the Olympics,
awed by the athleticism, artistry and sheer talent of the world’s athletes. The
ski jumpers, snowboarders and ice skaters—with their grace and confidence and,
in some cases, utter power—make the jumps and flips and spins look so easy, the
way a bird makes flying seem effortless. I watch and for a fleeting moment think
to myself, “I could learn to skate like that…” But I’m aware that these
athletes have spent entire lifetimes training, practicing, focusing; hour after
hour of hard work, sweat and determination through sore muscles, overworked
tendons, aching knees and backs. Can you imagine spending your whole life
working toward one Olympic moment?
In a way, that’s what Paul is
encouraging us to do in today’s passage. Living our lives according to the
example set by Jesus Christ is the goal of a lifetime. We must train ourselves
daily to exercise love and grace; we must work hard to seek justice and practice
compassion. Sometimes it takes determination and sweat. Often we find moguls in
our path or rough patches in the ice. Some days it’s easy, and we have that
feeling of sailing off a ski jump as if we’re flying, and those days make it
easier to persevere through days when we find ourselves limping along at the
back of the pack.
Paul says that in the end, we’ll
be rewarded for our hard work; we’ll have our gold-medal moment. That may be,
but I think I find my reward in earthly things like listening to my daughter’s
desire to help orphans in Haiti; in knowing our church’s offerings helped build
an AIDS hospice in South Africa; in going on a mission trip to Nicaragua. These
may not be Olympic moments, but they are signposts in our training toward the
goal of following the example of Jesus.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us in our quest to follow the loving, compassionate
example set by Jesus Christ. Amen.