The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown (Penguin, 2013) is the inspiring story of the University of Washington eight man crew team that won the Olympic gold medal at Berlin in 1936. Crew is the ultimate team sport. With a coxswain calling or beating time, the boat only moves swiftly and smoothly if the eight rowers work in perfect unison. The rowers were all of of different sizes, strengths, and temperaments, but they learned to dip their oars in the water and pull the boat forward as one man, in perfect precision, and were able to bring home the gold medal.
This working in unison is what God plans for His church. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the church, the body of Christ, to the human body, stressing each member of the body must do its part to build up the whole body. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” Just as every member of our physical bodies, from foot and eye to inner organs, is important, so is each member of the spiritual body, the church. “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14, 25-27).
A unique challenge of six-man crew is that only the coxswain, guiding the rowers, can see the finish line. The rowers, the “boys in the boat” must trust him to guide and control them, never knowing for sure how close they are to the finish line. We understand that the “heavenly finish line” awaits us, but we cannot see it, and we never know exactly how close we are to reaching it. That is why, as we “run with patience the race set before us,” we look unto “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). He has prepared the way, and He will guide us to the finish line. And the ride is so much smoother when we listen to His counsel and row as one man.