“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” Hebrew 12:1
As we approach All Saints Day, I was given a new way to consider Hebrews 12:1. One of the traditional readings of this is that the “cloud of witnesses” is in reference to those who have gone before us. The everyday “saints” in our lives who helped form our faith, along with the big names like Abraham, Ruth and the others mentioned in Hebrew 11. However, rather than reading this is a passage looking backwards, what if we read this passage as a way to move forward.
Viewing the “great cloud of witnesses” as our children, our neighbors, our co-workers, the person we encounter on the street when we do that awkward side-step dance. What if we are being viewed, not by those who have passed away, but being watched by the world around us who are witnessing our actions? How would you live differently?
One of my favorite things is to walk by the church playground while the Weekday school or CDC kids are out playing. Inevitably you will see one child just bolt off running, and then a line of others will chase after that child. As Protestants, this is what we celebrate on All Saints Day, that we are all saints—and we all have the ability and opportunity to lead others in the race of faith.
St. Francis is often assigned the quote: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” The sentiment is true. The Gospel—the abundant love of Jesus Christ—should be such a compelling story that it should motivate us to run the race laid out before us; a marathon, not a sprint. In doing so, we the cloud of witnesses that are watching will not be passive spectators, but may be motivated to follow along.
Who have you witnessed having a strong faith? What was compelling about their Christian faith? Who is watching you?