November 9, 2020
By Gina Padilla
My husband watches the Tour de France every year. From watching it with him, I’ve learned that what I thought was just a “bike race” is a three-week test of strength, tenacity and endurance. The race involves 21 individual race stages ranging from strenuous mountain climbs and treacherous downhills to time trials and flat surfaces totaling approximately 2100 miles by the time the race ends in Paris.
The main group of riders is called the peloton. Not just a name for a fancy workout bike, in the Tour de France, the peloton can be made up of anywhere from 75 – 150 riders that amazingly all seem to ride as one. Knowing nothing about bike racing, I wondered why they would want to be bunched up in a group. I thought it would be better to be outside the group to minimize the risk of a fall and be ready to break for the finish. What I’ve learned is that it’s much more beneficial to be in the peloton than on your own since riders draft behind other cyclists to conserve energy to use at the finish.
As I watched these riders bob and weave seamlessly, looking like a large caterpillar, I was reminded of the church – the body of Christ. We are many different parts, but one body. We work together for a common cause – the expansion of the Kingdom of Christ – but we all have our own role. Many people seem to think that only pastors or missionaries are called to expand God’s Kingdom. But as believers, our job is to love God and love others and we don’t need to be pastors to do that.
In our “peloton” we should surround ourselves with fellow believers at different points in their spiritual walk. We can learn and challenge each other so that we can continue to advance our knowledge of Christ and not grow dull in spirit as stated in Proverbs:
“As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)
When we surround ourselves with believers and let them into our lives, we have people around to love us, laugh with us, and lift us up. We can teach newer believers while we learn from more seasoned believers. We also have others to share accountability and stay on track in our spiritual walk with Christ.
Another advantage of having our peloton around us is we can take turns being in the front and providing a slipstream for our brothers and sisters as Paul tells us in Galatians:
“Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV)
Depending on our season of life we may be taking on someone else’s burden and letting them draft behind us or we may need the rest and benefit of drafting behind others. As members of the body of Christ, we don’t have to do everything alone and pretend we have it all together, but instead, we share our burdens. Whether we’re the brand-new mom who just wants a two-hour nap or the neighbor who’s been there, we each have something to give to the other. We can cook a meal or offer a listening ear and we can push aside our pride and ask for help. By sharing each other’s burdens we keep all the members of the body strong and not burnt out.
In addition to the benefits of riding in the peloton, there are dangers as well. While reaching speeds up to 40 mph, one rider losing focus for a split second can cause a crash and take out many riders. Just like when we take our eyes off Jesus, focusing on what the world wants and not what He wants, we can stumble and fall. However, if we are riding in the peloton when we fall, we are surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us get back into the race.
“But if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10 NIV)
The big difference between the body of Christ and a bike race peloton can be seen at the end of each stage of the race. As the riders near the finish, they begin to break away from the peloton, racing to be the first one across the finish line. As believers, we don’t have to beat anyone else to finish first. Although our paths may be different, our goal is the same. If we keep our eyes on Jesus, no one wins at the expense of the others.
Unlike the Tour de France, our race is a lifelong marathon made up of peaks, valleys, trials and glorious smooth rides. But the joy of this race is that we are not riding it alone. We always have Jesus, and we can surround ourselves with our peloton – fellow believers to laugh with us, cry with us, comfort us, challenge us and love us.
“ … And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)