When Another Falls
It was August 17, 2017 in Rio. Abbey D’Agostino, the most decorated Ivy League athlete in track and field and cross country, had only 2 kilometers to go in the 5,000-meter women’s heat to quality for the finals in the Olympics. Suddenly, Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand, stumbled and fell to the track. Abbey fell over her, landing awkwardly. On the ground wondering what to do next, Hamblin, the New Zealand runner, recalls D’Agostino standing over her saying, “Get up, we need to finish this.” She doesn’t remember struggling to her feet, but both runners helped each other to their feet and kept going.
Then later in the race, D’Agostino fell. She had torn the ACL in her right knee, and this time it was Hamblin helping her up with four laps to go. Hamblin couldn’t believe it. When she came down the final stretch, she looked back and there was D’Agostino still running. Before the race the two women were strangers. After the race their lives were intertwined, and the International Olympic Committee awarded both runners the Fair Play Award for embodying the true Olympic spirit.
It’s a far more powerful Spirit that the Apostle Paul stresses we need to exhibit when one of our brothers and sisters goes down in a far bigger race.
“Brothers and sisters, if anyone is suddenly entrapped in a sinful false step, you who are spiritual, those still walking in step with the Spirit, need to restore with a gentle spirit the one who fell. And be careful, watch out for yourself, lest you be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and in this way fulfill the Law of Christ ( ‘to love your neighbor as you love yourself’ Gal.5:10).” Galatians 6:1-2
As Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, he knew the truth. There would be relapses back into the immorality, idolatry, anger, carousing, etc. of their former life. Their sin nature was crucified with Christ, but in daily life this old corpse could stink things up badly in the lives of the believers. Instead of responding to these relapses with religious self-righteousness, criticism, and rejection, the believers who were still walking under the Spirit’s direction were to humbly and gently lift their fallen brother or sister back to their feet. Like an orthopedic surgeon, we are to reset the brokenness because of sin and help one another keep going in the race of being shaped together into the mirror image of our precious Savior. And while we are helping the fallen, we need to watch out. Satan loves to attack the spiritual medics in this spiritual warfare.
LORD, if the Olympic Committee recognizes that self-sacrifice to help runners who trip and get injured needs to be praised, then help us as brothers and sisters in the church to not reject and ostracize fellow believers when temptation suddenly assaults them and takes them down.
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