Comrades Marathon and Degrees of Rewards
The world-renowned Comrades Marathon route snakes past the entrance to our church parking lot. Consequently, once a year we seize the opportunity to demonstrate that worship can be experienced with as much gusto on a Saturday evening as on the Lord’s Day. In honor of the marathon, here is a snippet from The Preacher’s Payday which is the introduction to the chapter on degrees of heavenly rewards called “Jeweled Crowns or Just Kudos?”
Since the first race in 1921 the Comrades Marathon has become one of the most famous and prestigious of all ultra-marathons. The grueling 90 km route between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa makes winning the race a coveted achievement for runners from all over the world. But there are many ways to “win” the Comrades Marathon.
You could win it five hours and 24 minutes, like Leonid Shvetsov did in 2008, setting the world record. You could win it more times than anyone else, like Bruce Fordyce did—nine times. You could win by running against people who are not running: the “Bill Rowan Medal” is awarded to everyone who can beat his 1921 winning time of nine hours. And if you beat five times winner Wally Hayward’s time of six hours you get a medal named for him. But you can also win the race by beating the real competition: yourself. It is their own pain and fatigue that most runners are trying to conquer, not the person in front of them. It is a challenge of body and mind. And so the awards reflect this.
Most races award a gold medal for first place, silver and bronze for second and third places, and everyone else gets a pat on the back. The organizers of the Comrades Marathon, however, realize there is more to this race than coming first. Everyone who finishes within the 12 hour limit gets a medal. And as agonizing as the challenge, that medal will outlast the memory of your pain and fatigue.
Likewise the Bēma judgment is not about being compared to other believers. It is only about what you have done with what you have been given. Right now your station in life is largely arbitrary. If you are born into a rural African village setting to parents who have AIDS, your earthly life will look different to one born to a wealthy businessman and his wife the congresswoman. Your power and influence in this life are determined by your birth, your education, your intellect, and various factors that are sometimes out of your direct control. But your station in the eternal life is dependant entirely on you.
You, as a believer, are not judged according to what you do or who you are, but solely by what you do with what God has entrusted to you. Your eternity is affected by the choices you make today, or as the Gladiator said it “What we do in life echoes in eternity!”