Passing the Baton
We’ve all seen races of various types (and many of us have run them). Distance running is common these days, with 10K, half and full marathons being popular. Less common are relay races, because they typically involve teams, but they are becoming more popular among the more dedicated runners among us, including races like the Ragnar, which is approximately 200 miles long, with teams of 12 runners each running their 16-17 miles a piece over the course of two days and one night (And yes, they run through the night. Absolutely insane, I say!).
Olympic racing adds other difficulties like hurdles, other activities (like swimming, and target shooting), and handoffs. The relay race, where runners pass a baton from one runner to the next, is one of the most fascinating to me because of the amount of teamwork and coordination that requires. Passing a baton requires three things, that I think make great lessons for us as Christians.
Both must be running. When handing off the baton, both runners must be moving forward. The baton holder is running at full speed, doing their best to not lose precious seconds in the race. The baton receiver, while not running full speed, must be moving forward quickly ready to take off as soon as they grip the baton.
The handoff must be intentional. The baton receiver while running forward, is to have their arm extended backwards and stretch out their palm towards the runner. This makes an easy target into which the runner can press the baton so the receiver can grip the baton easily.
The new runner must continue looking forward. The new runner cannot be looking backwards or they will trip and stumble. Rather, the passing of the baton happens by their joint focus on the goal. If the baton passer’s eyes are not on the receiver’s outstretched hand, and the receiver’s eyes are not on the road ahead, they will stumble, or even worse, drop the baton, which results in disqualification.
I’m reminded of Paul’s words: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9.24-27). Paul was concerned that when he passed the baton of righteousness to the Corinthians, they would drop it, or run aimlessly, or fall from lack of discipline. He wanted to know that they would truly reach and grab the baton of faithfulness he was handing off.
Every preacher hopes for this same result. We want to preach the word of God and have it convict your heart. We want to share the Gospel and see it change lives. We want to read verses that encourage you to live lives for God, to grow relationships with one another, to strive for unity and togetherness. Every sermon is figuratively when we focus on your hand as we reach forward with the baton. Every bible class is a sprint towards the finish line. Every interaction is a handoff. And understand that this is not because we are evangelists, but because we are your brother. To do this well, we must all be moving forward and growing, increasing in faith and righteousness, running towards the goal (of knowing our Savior better), and we must focus on the teaching and interaction we have together as Christians, and we must keep our eyes on our Jesus.
So, put on your track shorts of the Gospel and running shoes of righteousness. Start running ahead and don’t forget to reach back and grab this baton. Let’s pass this baton and finish this race together. Let’s run so that we may receive that crown together!