Hold It Together

I had a particularly good time reading my Bible and praying this morning, and saw some really interesting things in Hebrews 12. In particular, the word “weary” which the author uses a couple times (verses 3 and 5), is an emphatic form of λύω which is the Greek word used in the beginning verb paradigms. For Greek students it’s sort of funny because it doesn’t seem as if you see λύω very often in actual New Testament sentences. By itself luo means “I loose,” so I wonder if this kind of “weary” could be loosely translated as “not holding it together.”

Verse 3 gives a plan for not being weary: consider Christ. And verse 5 quotes wisdom from Proverbs 3 and commands God’s children not to be weary. In other words, hold it together, son!

I also forget about the running illustration in verses 1-2. I like running. I really miss when I can’t run. The exhortation is: “with endurance, run!” And specifically we’re to run “the race that is set before us.” God is obviously the one setting the course, and with every step we should be acknowledging Him as the one who laid out route, including the interruptions and opportunities and difficulties. So, run, son!

Ready to Run

The author of Hebrews urged his readers to join him and “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” While our leg of the race is ahead of us, we know what sort of race it is by looking behind us. The “great cloud of witnesses” are done with their runs, runs that included conquering kingdoms, enforcing justice, escaping the sword’s edge, and putting armies to flight. Others had less visibly successful runs, being tortured, mocked, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, and other afflictions. Not only is the race ahead of us long, it is demanding and requires us to be ready for conflict.

Our readiness to run by faith with endurance requires repentance. Not only must we “lay aside every weight,” getting rid of bulk and burdens, we must also “lay aside…the sin which clings so closely.” Other translations refer to “sin which so easily entangles” (NAS) or “sin which so easily ensnares” (NKJV), sin that gets around us and trips us up.

The word euperistaton (εὐπερίστατον) itself includes the nuance of how easily the entangling happens. Sin has a way of circling in close, of making itself seem desirable so that we wouldn’t expect that sin to cripple our run. For example, the cape of super-competency we drape over our shoulders turns out to have cords of pride at the bottom that hamstring our legs.

The run of faith is a good one as we look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that is set before us, let us put off sin that keeps us from becoming like Him.

Strength to Repent

The benediction in Romans 15:5-6 is one way of stating God’s aim for His people.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–6, ESV)

Not only do we see God’s goal for us, but we also see how difficult it is for us to get there. In order to “live in harmony with one another,” in order to glorify God “with one voice,” God must grant it. We cannot do it in our own strength. We don’t have the endurance for Project One Voice, so the “God of endurance” must help. We’re likely to be discouraged by a gangly body part that rubs us the wrong way, so the “God of encouragement” must help. In fact, we won’t even want to be in this community choir unless God saves us by the gospel. He has to overcome our pride and selfishness all along the way in order to teach us to sing together.

We can’t do it on our own, and yet we must do it.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7, ESV)

We must “welcome,” we must seek “not to please ourselves,” but “let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (verses 1 and 2). This is God’s goal for us in the gospel and our failure to do it is sin. You know who makes it hard? Me! I’m still in process of considering myself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus! So are you. But that’s no problem. That’s why we love the gospel.

We work against God when we will not endure the “failings of the weak.” We image some other Christ when we reject rather than receive one another. We’re not supposed to embrace others because they deserve it, but because we’ve been welcomed by Christ.

What God is after is what we fail at. What we fail at is what we should repent from. And what we repent from is what God helps us get after. The God of endurance and encouragement grants us strength, and that may start with granting us the strength to repent.

kakapatheo

κα•κο•πα•θε•ω

verb — [ka-ko-pa-theh-oh]

definition: bear hardship patiently; suffer physical pain, trouble, danger, and distress.

example usage:

Σὺ δὲ νῆφε ἐν πᾶσιν, κακοπάθησον, ἔργον ποίησον εὐαγγελιστοῦ, τὴν διακονίαν σου πληροφόρησον. (2 Timothy 4:5)

The imperative is translated: “endure hardship” (ESV, NAS, NIV), “endure afflictions” (NKJV), “endure suffering” (NRSV), “bear evils” (DRBY).