With the Olympic Games upon us we are reminded of the world’s fascination with sport. But it isn’t just the modern world that has shown an interest in sport, Corinth in the first century A.D. was famous for its contests too. And the Isthmian Games (second only to the Olympic Games) were held there every two to three years.

Now Corinth didn’t have any gymnasiums, or Institute of Sports. Instead the athletes trained in the streets—beginning their training ten months prior to the games. So when the Apostle Paul wanted an illustration to teach the church at Corinth, he took images of the games which were familiar to the people. And he picked on two sports in particular—the foot race and boxing (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Now in the foot race there was normally only one winner. And the prize was more to do with glory and fame, than the prize itself. But Paul suggested that all church members needed to be training and competing to be winners. And that their life’s goal should be to know Christ. Indeed, they were to run the race with purpose, with their eyes fixed on the finishing line.

In regards to boxing, Paul suggested that if a boxer simply struck at the air (shadow boxed), then what was the point? Similarly, if anyone pretended to be a Christian, then there wasn’t a lot of point to that either. Instead, every member was to live with purpose, and with the intention of hitting home every punch.

Paul concluded that athletes needed to keep up their training to compete in the games. Similarly Christians needed to keep up their training, and to compete in the race too. And those are wise words we can consider as we watch the world’s athletes compete in this year’s games.

Posted: 3rd August 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis