Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to usand persevere in running the race that lies before uswhile keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,the leader and perfecter of faith.For the sake of the joy that lay before himJesus endured the cross, despising its shame,and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.Consider how he endured such opposition...in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-4Every Christian strives to be like Christ and thus every Christian knows from experience the challenges of that mission. In our private and public lives we are called to the two commandments which Jesus said encompass the entire law: love of the Divine One and love of our neighbor. He made clear on several occasions that everyone was our neighbor even our enemies.
Jesus certainly exemplified both of those in his own life. His love of the Divine One--his Abba Father--was evident in his constant move into periods of prayer. These were not the public, ritual prayers of religion but the personal, quiet experience of the Divine One deep within. What today we might call contemplation or meditation. These periods of prayer were essential to his ability to live out the second injunction of love even in the face of opposition, often violent opposition. The very end he was able to forgive those who were murdering him because his life was an indictment of their own failure to live up to the demands of faith.
The author of Hebrews asks us to confront the inevitable opposition we will face with a faithful and constant consideration of the story of Jesus. In short, today we might say that the author urges an evangelical approach, a return to the gospels and epistles of the New Testament. In this way we can experience the touch of Jesus who was both fully human and fully divine and in that touch we can experience the enduring love of the Divine One for us and all creation. The joy that was before Jesus and that can be ahead of us is not, I think, the joy of completion and fulfillment but rather the joy of process and movement. There can be a joy in our striving to lead a Christian life even if difficult, even if misunderstood, even if opposed and rejected.
Today in America we face great divisions. Regardless of election results and government policy, these divisions are not going to go away any time soon. These are difficult times for all of us; more difficult for some than for others. These are not happy times and it will be a long time, if ever, before these divisions subside. Good faithful Christians disagree about many things and it is tempting to think about resolving those by dividing ourselves into "real" Christians and "misguided" Christians. That would be a mistake.
If we follow the advice of the author of Hebrews and return to Jesus, to deep prayer, and unconditional love of others including those who oppose us, we will be able to persevere and "not grow weary and lose heart."