I have been a runner for over 45 years. In college, I was the 5th runner on my cross-country team. My primary responsibility focused on crossing the finish line before the other team’s 5th runner. As you can reason, I never finished first in a race. That fact has never bothered me; I run simply because I love it.
Our society places tons of emphasis on finishing first. Many people remember the name of the first person who broke the 4-minute mile, but few remember the second person. Consequently, I have found in all my years of teaching and coaching that when finishing first becomes the primary emphasis of either academics or sports, the joy for the students is lost. In our culture, being number 1 means one has no place else to go. Maintaining or falling from the number 1 position may lead to anxiety, stress, and discontent.
However, not so with Christ. Saint Andrew provides us a matrix to follow when it comes to being first. According to John’s Gospel, Saint Andrew is Jesus’ first follower, however, he refuses to take the limelight that often comes with being first. As soon as John the Baptizer points out Jesus “the Lamb of God” to Andrew, Andrew follows Jesus. Jesus invites Andrew “come and see,” but before Andrew goes any farther, “he first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’” He then brings Simon to Jesus.
For Saint Andrew being first was not about pointing to himself and expecting accolades. For Saint Andrew, being the first was about pointing to Jesus and bringing others to him so that the Gospel of Christ could unfold and fill the hearts of others. He slides quietly into the background during Jesus’ ministry, while Peter enters the forefront and becomes the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Andrew later steps forward as a servant of faith when he brings the young boy to Jesus and says, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Again, Andrew puts the focus on Christ as he brings the boy to Jesus. Consequently, he realizes all things are possible with God including five loaves and two fish feeding 5,000 people. His humility, faith, and commitment provide for us a proven way to follow Christ.
As Christians, Saint Andrew reminds us that following Christ requires us to surrender our need for notoriety and acclaim. Saint Andrew reminds us we must instead continually point to Christ. That is our charge.
Our culture has grown more and more secular, almost resisting the draw to Christ. Therefore, Saint Andrew offers us a way, as Christians, to follow Christ quietly, humbly, and lovingly. We can offer invitations to our friends and colleagues to join us in a church function or parish service project. Perhaps once they see our church living its faith out in the world, then they may desire to see more. This quiet invitation can lead others to Christ just as Saint Andrew lead Peter to Christ.
It may also require us to allow the person we bring to Christ to have a primary role in the church. Our call may be to step aside for another to take the lead. Notice Andrew didn’t desire supremacy or a top position among the disciples. He simply desired to follow Christ. As he handed Jesus the five loaves and two fish provided by a young boy, he waited and let the miracle unfold. Afterward he blended in with the twelve who distributed the loaves and fishes and collected the leftovers.
Perhaps we have never run a cross-country or road race, but we are running in a race that has no winner or loser. Saint Andrew reminds us, as he leaves his fishing nets and brings Peter to Jesus, we don’t need to fear our secular culture, nor do we need to pursue it; we don’t need to fear power nor pursue it; we don’t need to fear worldly ambition nor pursue it. In our pursuit of Christ, we run as Christians. We run with Christ. We run for his honor and Glory just as Saint Andrew did.