I read today about a race coming to Shelby County next week. It’s along the same lines of all the popular races for charity that runners take part in almost every weekend. You know, the 3K, 5K, 10K, half-marathons, and the likes. Sign up, pay your money, get a t-shirt to say you ran, run as far as you can and finish as quickly as you can make it, and everyone wins.
Except this race is different. It’s an April Fool’s Day No-K. It includes everything that other races have–a $25 entry fee, a packet of goodies including a t-shirt, and all the money raised goes to charity–but in this case there is no running involved. Not a single kilometer. Instead, participants will just show up at Veteran’s Park in Hoover, collect their stuff, hang out with their fellow “runners,” and go back home without even having to break a sweat.
Already more than twenty people have signed up for the April Fool’s Day event, with the start of the non-race scheduled for 2 p.m. on Palm Sunday afternoon. The organizers–who are themselves competitive half-marathon runners–hope to have a large number of registrants by “race” time, with all proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They also hope to make it an annual event.
It may sound a little silly, but I do understand the appeal. Many people love to run, but even more love to wear the t-shirt that says they ran. It’s kind of a status symbol among runner-types, especially those who aren’t especially competitive and aren’t very good runners. The No-K is okay, because it allows you to make a contribution to a good cause and wear the cool t-shirt, without requiring a lot of effort.
Of course, you know there’s some sort of spiritual application coming–and there is.There are many parallels between this No-K and “the race” that many Christians run. They want to wear the outer garments to identify with the faith, and play the part of the “runner,” without actually having to put a lot of effort into it. To borrow from our recent Shape Upsermon series, they want the appearance of godliness without the discipline. Instead of “No pain, No gain,” they prefer the more comfortable motto “No pain, No pain.”
Now let me say very clearly, the Gospel is nothing if not free. The grace of God that brings us the free gift of salvation requires no effort on our parts, except faith. We must trust in the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf on Calvary’s cross. Let no one buy the lie that we ever have to work to earn God’s love.
However, to grow into spiritual maturity is more than just slipping on a t-shirt that says we’ve been there, done that, and we got the souvenir to prove it. Sometimes, walking with God, and training in righteousness is nothing short of hard work. Just as there are no shortcuts to getting ourselves into shape physically, neither can we take the easy road and grow into godliness.
This week we’ll be bringing the Shape Upseries to a close with the most important message I’ve shared in this series. I sure hope you can be there to hear what God has to say to all of us. I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.