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Home arrow Articles arrow Looking Peripherally
Looking Peripherally

Bang! went the gun and the runners took off.  Cheering crowds egged them on.  It was the start of the men’s 100 metre dash.  The runners picked up the pace, but finishing the race in under 10 seconds was an unattainable feat.  You see, this was the Special Olympics meant for disabled athletes and the grotesque, awkward movements of the runners bore testimony to this fact.  It was not just a question of the fittest winning; it was a question of who would overcome the disadvantage of an imperfect body; who would triumph over the agony of making uncoordinated body parts move in fluid tandem; who would overcome the odds stacked against them.  Halfway through the race however, the cheering of the crowds gave way to collective groans of dismay—one of the runners had fallen, and appeared unable to get up.  And then a strange thing happened, never witnessed at an Olympic meet before—the other runners stopped, and as if in one accord walked back to their fallen brother, lifted him up, linked arms and ran to the finish line together.  The cheering that erupted as they crossed the finish line was of deafening proportions.  Not many could contain the tears of this moving spectacle.  The spirit of the Olympics had triumphed!

I read about this event almost fourteen years ago but in the last month have thought more of it than in all these years.  The race isn’t about winning no matter what, but how we run it, the happenings along the way, the attention we pay to peripheral things, those things that get blurred by the focused attention we give to winning at any cost, and these things are important.  Important enough for Jesus to have said that loving one’s neighbour was as important as loving God.  They went hand in hand, our attention to one ascribing worth to the other.  Patrick Morley said it well when he said: “The depth of our Love for God will never be greater than the height of our love for our neighbours.”  How true.  To set our eyes on the things of God and run it to the exclusion of neighbourly acts is not a race well run.  God never intended for us to have a myopic view, else he would not have equipped us with peripheral vision.  The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter ten underscores this fact.  Priest and Levite had one goal etched upon their hearts—get from Jerusalem to Jericho as quickly as possible.  Don’t get sidetracked, don’t respond to needs.  Just get to where you’re going as quickly as possible.

Sometimes that is the way we too try and run the race.  Our goal is heaven and I’m headed there.  Till I get there let me keep a low profile, not jeopardize my chances of getting there, not involve myself in peripheral things.  But if that was God’s intention He would, I’m sure miraculously have transported us into His presence the moment we got saved.  “Why waste time hanging around with sinners.  Let’s just get them into heaven before they’re tarnished by the world.”  But, He keeps us here as a visible, tangible sign of His Love and Grace, still freely being offered to broken, beaten and lost people along life’s treacherous path, inviting us to be His hands and His voice and His eyes in touching the needy, comforting the bereaved and noticing the needs around us.  Mistakenly we have believed that “Fixing our gaze on Him” means excluding all else, little realizing that His eyes constantly look for the ones who are hungry and thirsty and need clothing and shelter and help, and, therefore, ours must too.  

Life’s journey isn’t easy.  Casualties are strewn all along.  And we must commit to picking up fallen brothers and sisters along the pathway of life, linking arms with them and crossing the finish line together.  The runners in that special Olympic meet would not have seen their fallen brother except for peripheral vision.  We too, need to use our vision to see the needs all around us.  Let’s commit to “looking peripherally…”



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