Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2
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Sometimes the Apostle Paul sounds like he’s coaching an athletic team. When he mentions “the race set before us,” I even think of a physician who’s a runner and went as a missionary to Tanzania.
Then, too, there are Paul’s epistles, where he comes across as an all-too-human administrator trying to cope with chaos and crisis in Hellenic congregations. Warts and all, he faces situations not unlike those we find within our own faith communities; sometimes he offers keen insights into human nature, but other times he flies off the handle and jumps to wrong conclusions. Watch for the “I have nothing on this” – meaning nothing from the Holy Spirit, and so “This is what I have decided to do to resolve this problem.” Charles Fager offers a helpful study guide to First Corinthians in his Three Quaker Bible Studies (Kimo Press, 1979). My preference is to take each epistle on its own, then going to another section of the Bible for a while before returning to the epistles, including those of Peter and of James.
Still, it’s comforting to know we’re not alone in our endeavors. That cloud of witnesses is always present.
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Every Man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me, saith Christ. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)