Editorial: Follow the Crowd

No, not that crowd, but the one the writer to the Hebrews focuses on as he is about to conclude his letter. His concern was that these believers had lost their focus in the Christian race and, because of persecution or hardship, had begun to fix their eyes on what was behind them. So, he reminds them (and us) that “a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1) surrounds us. These are the great spiritual athletes of history who excelled in faith, and he wants us to follow this crowd. He refers to them as witnesses, not spectators. It’s not that they’re watching us from heaven and cheering us on in the race. They are not so much witnesses of us but witnesses to us of faith and perseverance in what they have lived and experienced. And in this vast crowd, each face seems to nod with encouragement, that if they could finish their race of faith, we can too. Follow that crowd!

The writer gives at least three instructions to finish our race well. First, he wants us to drop our weights. Any runner knows that carrying 50 extra pounds on the body is going to make a race difficult, if not impossible, to complete. Nor will a runner haul a backpack with 4 liters of his favorite drink to consume along the way. The Hebrews writer has two weights in mind that we need to drop – hindrances and clinging sin. “Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (v1).1 A hindrance might be a hobby, a habit, a place or an event. So many things can serve as distractions from finishing our race well. A clinging sin might be lust, pride, jealousy or anger. Drop your weight! The race is far too important to hold onto these things.

Second, the writer exhorts us to move our feet. “Run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v1). He mentions endurance because this race is not for sprinters. The Christian life is no 100-meter dash, but a marathon where milers grind out every step until the race is done. Your race is like no one else’s. Some are relatively straight without too many turns. Others are nearly all turns and steep hills. But each of us can run the race “set before us” so long as we do so with endurance. Drop your weights! Move your feet!

Finally, we are encouraged to fix our eyes. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (v2). The writer uses His human name, Jesus. Jesus ran His race perfectly despite every possible obstacle being thrown along His path. He never faltered. And He is the one to whom we must look. Yes, we should be aware of the great cloud of witnesses who have preceded us, but there is one Person upon whom we must fix our eyes – Jesus, the one who trusted God every meter of His journey. If we do, we will not “grow weary or fainthearted” (v3).

There are believers reading this who are nearing the end of their race. The reality is that we all might be approaching the finish line as we consider the nearness of Christ’s return. Many have gone before us and finished well. Follow that crowd and fix your eyes not so much on them but on “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

1 Bible quotations in this article are from the ESV.