Hebrews 12:1 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, 2 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.
The central insight I’m going to be bringing in my Sunday morning sermon tomorrow at the local Baptist church is an optional reading of Hebrews 12:1. Specifically, I want to suggest this: the “weight” that holds us back in the “race” is not always a “sin” as specifically defined by scripture.
Someone could legitimately say that “weight” and “sin” are a parallelism, and I would agree, but the parallelism may be because of the effect of hindering our ongoing life as a follower of Jesus.
There is no doubt that we are called to lay aside, i.e. repent of, sin. I would contend that we are admonished, with just as much authority, to lay aside whatever may hinder us that is not a matter of repenting of sin, but of giving up what is not necessary, what distracts us and what makes it difficult to carry out the calling and mission of the church.
It is interesting that we will give our preachers permission to preach against sin, but do they have permission to preach about the “weight” we insist on carrying?
The traditions? The methodologies? The cultural assumptions? The expected and accepted calendar? The attitudes toward personal evangelism? The attitudes towards money, comfort and personal investment?
The role of family? The expectations of significant others? The pattern of denominational methodology? The role of the church itself? The role of its leaders?
It strikes me as incredibly relevant to the current situation that we not just ask, if the mission hindered by gossip, but that we ask if the mission is hindered by exactly what we are doing and why we are doing it.
This occurred to me at Advance ’09 when a speaker who shall remain nameless, but who likes to eat chicken wings, suggested that some churches needed to cancel Sunday School. The air temporarily vanished from the room. The speaker looked impishly provocative and I immediately got the point: he wasn’t suggesting you abandon Bible study or small groups, but what if the fact that your entire small group program is a dress up affair in a church building on Sunday morning is ONE of the reasons you aren’t doing the basics of your church’s mission?
What if your WAY of doing church is a weight. Not a sin.
What if your way of living the Christian life is too comfortable, too predictable, too safe and too “in the niche” of a tradition that answers all your questions?
What if your schedule is so full of things that aren’t sinful that you can’t do anything new this week for the Kingdom? What if your life at church is so full you already know everything you are ever going to do for Jesus? What if your life is so full of your current friends you could never make a new one?
What if you are investing so much in what is good that you can’t sacrifice or joyfully give away money for the Kingdom?
What if your good life, good morals, good witness are the reason you don’t have a life of discipleship filled with risk, impact and Kingdom adventures?
What if your problem isn’t the sin that clings so closely, but the weights you are so easily and comfortably carrying around in order to be a “good Christian?”