Those are pretty big concepts to grasp. Yet every year at this time people who call themselves Christians broom together their guilt and sorrow into a dingy little pile and submit their repentance for consideration before the Lord God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
If that sounds a little bit like the language of a Radio Preacher, then so be it. As I wrote recently on my blog GenesisFix, there is a new form of Christianity out there that is more about winning the values argument than it is about actually acting out Christian principles. I call it Meta Christianity, that referential brand of faith that commodifies the authority of Jesus for the convenience of the self-proclaimed righteous masses and what they decide is all important on behalf of God and Christ. That might include lying to yourself about the Prosperity Gospel or that evolution is a farce, but so be it. Hubris isn’t confined to the secular world, for sure.
Because mostly what we find behind the motives of Meta Christianity is the love of money, political power and control freak standards of morality that have nothing to do with an intelligent understanding of scripture. There’s an arrogant tradition in religion that says if you own the narrative, you own the power. Just ask the Catholic Church before Martin Luther took them down a notch.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive…
Because while preachers these days are asking for $65M jets from their followers, and building $10.5M homes as testament to their own dreams of prosperity, millions of naive people continue giving their hard-earned money to the cause of the wealthy because humble people are always dying to get into heaven. It couldn’t possibly suck as bad as life on earth.
So the Resurrection holds tons of hope for people worshipping at churches where the kingdom of God is turned into a kind of currency exchange all those seeking a title loan on their souls. Frankly that approach makes the kingdom of God feel like a Rust Belt city trying to make ends meet as a tourist attraction. All those arenas filled with crying parishioners march straight from the church to the NFL stadiums or their big screen TVs because they crave stimulation in the face of this boring, secular life they have to struggle through before earning their place in heaven.
Paths to Salvation
Well, I am here to tell you, my fellow believers and non-believers, that those of us who run and ride know a better path to salvation. We know daily what it means to suffer and come back to life. We resurrect ourselves for morning workouts when even God is still lying in bed. We strive and fail with gusto, just like Jesus and even the God of the Muslims and the Torah told us to do.
Moses and Abraham would have made great triathletes or marathoners. They knew the virtues of strife bring out the best in us all. A restricted diet of manna and quail? No problem. Let’s keep moving folks. We don’t want the dust to settle under our feet for too long. Snakes biting your ankles? Wrap thick cloth around your ankles and make sure you strap on your sandals tight in case you need to run for your life.
Moses and Abraham were like the original coaches, don’t you see? They led their charges out of Egypt and got their training rules from God himself.
But the people griped and complained. Life was too damned hard in the desert. They bitched and moaned about the food, or tried hoarding it like little piggies. So God made it wilt and spoil just to prevent them from cheating on their diets. Oh that Oreos would do that trick.
Even that biblical character Job knew what it meant to suffer with the best of them. “It builds character,” he so much as bragged to his snarky buddies who stood around mocking him for his pains. “And when I’m through with the spiritual workout God is putting me through, I’ll be in peak soul condition. Because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Women pegged for success
There are plenty of strong women in the Bible too. You had to be tough to be a woman in those days. It wasn’t easy being the property of any man. Hell just finding the car keys would have been tough! And when tested, women knew how to survive. Take this example from Judges 4:21, “But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.”
It is likely she killed him because he stole her water bottle before a 20-mile workout. Anyone who does that deserves to die. And it’s unlikely that the dude with the tent peg through his head got resurrected, either. God doesn’t like thieves. They don’t get into heaven. “Thou shalt not steal.”
Those of us who run and ride do know what it’s like to rise from death to run and ride again. Or at least we feel dead some days. Aching legs. Ass numb from riding 80 miles on a hot day in August. And yet, when you get moving a little things often improve. You come back from the dead eventually.
Of course we also make ourselves nearly sick to death with our training regimens. We skip sleep and feel like zombies. We catch colds so bad our lungs come flying out in chunks. We get diarrhea and constipation, spew blood and sweat and Farmer Snots, and still we swallow our pride and come back for more. We kill ourselves only to rise again. Another day, another workout. And goddamnit, we’ve not quitting.
Jesus in the Desert
Think about Jesus in that desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Satan himself accompanied him out their to tempt the Son of God with all sorts of riches and comforts. He waved his hand and said, “All this can be yours!” But Jesus turned to Satan and said. “I’ve got a swim workout at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow. Go away and let me sleep.”
So you get the picture. Our sacrifices do teach us a few things about life. Even if you think religion is a bunch of bunk, you have to admit there are certain parallels between endurance sports and the race of life. 2 Timothy 7 captures it cleanly: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” That’s like the triathlon of spiritual testimony, right there.
Beware of False Prophets
So we must beware of false prophets who would lead us astray from the modern asceticism that we find appealing in our endurance sports. The New Pharisees with their promises of the Prosperity Gospel seem to think God is in the business of handing us stuff just for speaking well of his character. They seem to think we’re all just a bunch of squirrels sniffing around for free nuts that God throws down from heaven. Seriously, that’s about the depth of their so-called Prosperity Gospel. Well, nuts to them.
Those of us who run and ride know there’s a big difference between saying you’re going to run a 2:30 marathon and actually doing it. We know that God refines our character through trials that many people seem unwilling to endure.
And yet we must be careful not to think ourselves better than others for our pursuits. There are many paths to God or enlightenment. Many types of journeys can deliver insight, hope and the zen of being.
The best philosophy is to be strong in your efforts, but grateful for your abilities. Be hopeful in your approach, yet accept your failings with humility and grace. Be sure to kick ass when you can, yet be encouraging to people of all abilities. The weakest among us are not those whose ass you seek to kick.
They already understand the grace of God, after all. They rise and fall in daily resurrections just like you, but without the possible glory you might earn. Those are the people we need to respect most of all. They teach us that resurrection is something highly individual, yet meant to be shared.
And here’s hoping the Easter Bunny brings your favorite kind of chocolate. You’ve most certainly earned it.
Spread the Gospel of We Run and Ride. Please share with your flock of friends.