Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
The man who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews has just cataloged (in Hebrews 11) the spiritual triumphs of three sets of people. The first, the Early Ancestors, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah; the second, the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the People of the Exodus, Rahab; the third, the Judges and the Prophets, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel. Note that in each group in the catalog of faith one woman is mentioned. Sarah, Rahab, and Deborah, by virtue of the fact that Barak was the commander of the army under Deborah, who was a Judge in Israel. So his military conquest is credited to Deborah, since he didn’t act on his own behalf. What the writer wants us to know is universal, not gender specific.
If you would review the lists in a little detail, you will quickly discover that each of these people was a sinner. In the lists are habitual liars, cheats, gossips, murderers, people with sexual addictions and a taste for alchohol. And yet, God singles them out, not for their sins, but for their trust. They are men and women who became examples to Israel of what it means to put sin behind you and trust God. The ultimate example, the writer says, is Jesus.
Jesus despised sin. Even more than that, as one faithful to the Law, he despised the shame and stigma of being publicly identified as a sinner, as one treated as an outcast from Israel. But he was willing to be identified that way (falsely) if it meant that it kept his heart right with God. So he endured the curse of the Cross (“cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), being cast out of Israel (he was crucified outside of Jerusalem for this symbolic reason), and shedding his blood in resistence against sin. I don’t mean that his hanging on the cross was resisting sin. By then he had long-since made the personal choices that would make it possible for him to endure the pain of crucifixion. He resisted sin to the point of shedding blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, as in anguished prayer his sweat was tinged with blood.
Making a habit of resisting sin may seem silly when you live in a culture of people who don’t believe the word has any meaning. Most people today would tell you that you’re being extreme and that you should lighten up on yourself. But establishing a habit of resisting sin will ultimately give you the courage and conviction to stand against the shame some will heap on you when you stand, against the tide, for what is right.