Paul chose his words carefully when he proclaimed to his long-time companion Timothy that he had fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. But today, one is reluctant to reinforce the athletic imagery. In medieval periods, cities competed for the biggest cathedrals. Today they compete for the biggest stadiums and best sports teams. While G.K. Chesterton once observed that "America is the nation with a soul of a church," it now often appears that America has become the nation with the soul of a football.
We would do well to remember that Reinhold Niebuhr always condemned those who tried to make a success story out of the cross. By the world's standards, Jesus failed. Winning isn't everything. Paul testifies that he has "finished the race," not that he has won. Even Paul's other well-known athletic text, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, urges the believer to "run to win," but doesn't say we will win. Sometimes we will run and lose.
Several years ago a boxer, Babe Malonek,...
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