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23 September 2016

A love that knows no borders

A love that knows no borders

Charlotte Hendy is the Esther Collective team leader at Girls' Brigade.

You've probably all seen it the latest video to do the rounds on social media. As I write this, the BBC Sport video has had nearly 90,000 shares, 10,000 comments and more than 300,000 reactions on Facebook. The inspiring video of the Brownlee brothers has well and truly gone viral.

If by any chance you haven't seen it, here's what happened. At the World Triathlon Series earlier this week, Briton Jonny Brownlee is leading the race when he almost collapses as he nears the finish line. His brother Alistair, at this point in third place, puts Jonny's arm across his own shoulders and helps him over the finish line, ensuring that Jonny finishes in second place, just before himself.

Alistair and his actions have been branded heroic, inspiring, dramatic, and the video has been incredibly popular. And why wouldn't it? It's an amazing story, and no doubt one that will continue to be remembered and celebrated.

It's a story that, I think, speaks to our human condition, and our desire for relationships, and a love that knows no borders. During a week when we discovered that even the love of Brangelina is breakable (*sobs*) we have latched on to that one small gesture of Alistair Brownlee that spoke volumes.

As I watched the video of the Brownlee brothers for the umpteenth time this week – it has become my go-to pick-me-up video – I was reminded of another kind of love that I read about every time I open my Bible. A love that is so great that God would send His own son to earth, not just to feel my pain in His human form, but to die on a cross, so that I wouldn't have to bear the weight of my own sin.

Just as Alistair took his brother Jonny's arm and wrapped it around his own shoulders, taking on his weight and his impediment, so too Jesus takes the weight off of my shoulders and onto his own, releasing me to run with perseverance the race marked out for me, fixing my eyes on Jesus, the perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2) as he supports my each and every step. God's love for us was sacrificial, and He calls us to do the same.

The Brownlees' video reminded me of these words that I have displayed on my desk at work:

"So let's do it—full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do, but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big day approaching." Hebrews 10:22-25, The Message.

I love these words and what they say about God's relationship with me and my relationship with others. God "always keeps His word" – He has taken my arm and placed it over His shoulders, just as Alistair did with Jonny.

What should my response to this be? "…Encouraging love and helping out…spurring each other on". I'm challenged with this question: whose arm will I rest over my shoulders?

So this weekend as I remember again that one small gesture of Alistair Brownlee, I'll be reflecting on God's outrageous love for me, and how I will choose to respond and love others. As the Message version of the Bible says: "let's see how inventive we can be"!

Image CC: Yannis Theologos Michellis