Monday, September 12, 2005

Cloud of Witnesses - Part One

I went running the other morning with my friend D.R. and some guys I know from church. D.R. started this little running group a couple months back under the premise of the apostle Paul’s many references to the Christian life as a race. We get together early on Fridays, have a short devotional thought, and then take off for 30 minutes of running, jogging, or walking (or in my case, 30 minutes of gasping, panting, or wheezing). Now I’m the type of guy who, when it comes to exercise, is no longer what you’d call “self-motivated.” And to be honest, although I enjoy the effects and acknowledge the benefits of exercise, it’s often a struggle to maintain consistency on my own.

One of the verses we were looking at before running that particular morning was Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. The part of this verse that grabbed me as I thought about it is the fact that “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.”

Obviously, those witnesses could be non-Christians; those to whom we are examples for Christ as we live our lives. I think that’s the context in which most of us think of those witnesses, but I don’t think that phrase is limited simply to those who are not Christians. I think that cloud of witnesses also includes our brothers and sisters in Christ – it is a reference to the importance of Christian community in that it enables and motivates us to “run with perseverance.”

You can't make it alone. We were made for community... that's why the Church is called a body.


Matthew Wireman said...

Jason ~

A thought. Chapter 12 in Hebrews is one of my favorite in the Bible. The context of ch. 12 comes right after ch. 11 which explicates those who exercised great faith in God. The "therefore" in verse 1 is the implication of ch. 11. What the author's argument is is that because of these great examples of faith, let us also throw off the stuff that will hinder our running to Christ. It follows the statement in Heb. 11:39:   And all these [men and women of faith], though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Therefore, in order that they might be made perfect, let us run with perseverance...

Does this make sense?

van.diesel said...

Great insight! I always thought the "cloud of witnesses" was a reference to non-believers, but I checked out what you said here and it totally fits. The "witnesses" refer exclusively to the saints then, if I understand correctly? How then would you define the relationship between the runners and the witnesses?

Matthew Wireman said...

Runners = present-day believers (actually, at the writing...but transferrable to us)

Witnesses = saints that have gone before us and testify to the beauty of Christ

The exhortation seeks to encourage our faith in the future by recalling the faithfulness of God in the past. It seeks to encourage us that although we may have our bodies sawn in half or burned (11:34 and 37). It is a reminder that our Christianity cannot be separated from God's activity in the past...we belong to a huge throng of people throughout history who have been redeemed by Jesus.

kim curry said...

Hebrews 12:1-2 happens to be my life verse - that which I believe sums up my Christian experience on earth. Through my study of these verses, I have also come to believe that 'great cloud of witnesses' is made in reference to the heroes of the faith mentioned in chapter 11. In my mind, I picture myself with worldly baggage running a marathon. These witnesses are watching me in this race, cheering me on, to a point that I lose those things which hinder me and run faster toward my Saviour.

It has never been more apparent to me until this year of how important these fellow runners and the cloud of witnesses are. God gave us other people to help us along in our race. Perhaps I wouldn't be running at all if it weren't for other people...maybe just walking...maybe still running - just running in the wrong direction.