Running the Race

In the Wesleyan tradition one of the beliefs that we hold is the idea of Christian perfection.   The thought  behind this is that through the continual working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (a process called sanctification) that spiritual perfection can be achieved.   This concept of perfection can be defined as fully loving God with all of one’s being, truly loving one’s neighbor as one’s self, and refraining from willfully sinning.    In other words, Christian perfection is having the very mind and attitude of Jesus Christ.  Much of Paul’s letters urge the early church to live this way, and it is out of the scriptural tradition that the concept arises.  It needs to be stressed that in the Wesleyan tradition perfection is not an abstract concept, but it is a state of being that is theoretically attainable and it should be strived for.   The early Methodists met for this very purpose.  They would hold one another accountable and spur one another on to live in a more Christ like manner.   

In the realm of geeky hobbies, I think there is one particular specialization that speaks to what it means to pursue Christian perfection.   In the realm video games there is something called the speed run.   This is where players seek to race through a game as fast as possible, each time attempting to get a little more perfect as they shave seconds off their time.   Speed running is a quest for perfection in a specific game and I think that as followers of Jesus we can learn from speed runs how to better pursue Christian perfection.   

Making speed runs is not something I have personally ever attempted, so to gain a better understanding of it I talked to someone who does it.   Ethan Simpson  regularly broadcasts his speed runs of the game Undertale on Twitch.   Undertale is a PC role-playing game released in 2015 with a distinctly retro feel.   In talking with Simpson about why he enjoys speed running, I noticed three specific ways it connects with how a believer runs “the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)   

Simpson was very upfront with how much time he has to devout to do speed running.  Just to get his route planned out he put in about three hours a day for a month straight.   Once he got that down, he still now plays through the same game daily trying to improve his time.  This takes between an hour and a half to two hours a day.   This is the first thing that stuck out to me about doing speed runs.  It takes repetition, discipline, and a time commitment.   When we take the Christian faith seriously it also takes repetition, discipline, and a time commitment.  Seeking to live like Jesus, is not something that naturally happens, but it requires effort.  It requires regularly seeking to serve and meet the needs of others.  There is a saying in the Methodist tradition that sums this up: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”     

The second connection I saw between Christian discipleship and doing speed runs  is that the rewards come in incremental progress.   Simpson stated that what brings him the most enjoyment out of doing speed runs is  “Seeing the small improvements and growth in being more consistent from run to run.”   

Years ago Eugene Peterson wrote a book with a title that perfectly sums up the Christian walk.  The title was A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.   The direction to sanctification is the direction of being more Christ-like.  This state is achieved by small improvements and growth over time.  Followers of Christ will not reach perfection in a few short weeks, but rather over a time we will become more consistent at loving others, forgiveness, and walking obediently.   

The final connection I saw  is what got Simpson into speed running in the first place.  He stated that one of the things that helped get him into attempting speed running was watching others do it.  According to Simpson, watching the videos of others completing successful speed runs “made it seem like such a rewarding hobby.”   

There are a lot of books published on evangelism and sharing the Christian faith with those not living it, but the most effective strategy is to simply live as a Christian.  A follower of Christ who pursues perfection and lives an authentic life is the best way to share the gospel.   When Christians actually live like Christians, full of the love and compassion of Christ, then it shows how truly rewarding being a disciple is.    

The race of Christian perfection is not a speed run.  It is a long obedience in the same direction.    However, may we better learn from those around us (even those in unexpected places!) how we can better follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

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