The Responsibility of the Christian (continued)
c. Alongside of Others
And the third factor or feature in these fragments is something which is not observable in our translation. You notice it says: "Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus ..." There are other translations of that clause, such as: "Take your share in suffering hardship ..." Neither of them, perhaps, gives the exact sense of the original. This is one of the occasions when Paul uses one of his favorite compounds. You know that Paul was tremendously fond of compound words, and one of his favorite kinds of compound was a whole series of words with the prefix "syn" to them. "Syn" means "together", and what he is saying here is this: 'Look here, Timothy, we are all in it. You are not alone in this; this is a collective matter, this is a corporate matter. This is something which, if it only related to you, might not be very important; you might not think it important enough to be seriously considered. But look here, Timothy, we are together - you must not let me down.'
This fact of the collective or corporate aspect of the conflict is a big thing, is it not? We are fighting alongside of one another and for one another; the battle is a common battle, and we must not let one another down. If someone else is having a bit of hardship, we must come and share the hardship with them; and if we are having a bit of hardship, they come come and share it with us. It is a tremendous factor in victory, to keep together in it. So it is the "togetherness" of the battle and the warfare that is quite definitely thought of by the Apostle here.
The Christian As Athlete
Our next "group" consists of just this fragment: "If a man contend in the games, he is not crowned except he have contended lawfully." Here, hidden behind the English translation, is a Greek word - Athleo- from which we get our English words "athlete" and "athletic". The Greek word means to compete in, or take part in, the public games or contests. The Christian is compared to a Greek athlete. Now that sounds like sport, but it is not! For the word is a very strong word, implying one who engages in a contest for the mastery. That is making a business of things, is it not? We, as Christians, are called to engage seriously in a contest, at the end of which there is a prize, which it is possible for us to lose. That is the conception. Of course, there is a very large background of the Greek games to this word of Paul's; he knew all about it. The Greek athlete was called upon to spend ten whole months in rigorous preparatory discipline and training before he was allowed to enter the contests. And the rules for training were stringent. He must shun many things; he must observe certain regulations; he must discipline himself and put aside all his own preferences and his own likes. He must recognize that this thing is so serious that, should he break one of the regulations of his training, he is disqualified, he is not allowed to enter.
(continued with # 77)