Running the race: the Olympics and the search for truth

raceThis month, one sporting event will demand our attention above all others: the 2008 Olympics. Here at, we’ll be pointing out a few people and organizations in our community that do sports ministry: outreach to sports fans and athletes.

Does it seem strange to imagine a “sports ministry”? It might sound odd at first, but consider that athletics is an activity held in esteem by nearly every culture around the world, today and throughout history. Whether you like your football in the American or European variety; whether you run a marathon or swim the English channel—athletic achievement is recognized all over the world as a way to explore our own humanity.

Which means that it’s a natural and universal way to talk about the human condition… and that’s why evangelists going all the way back to the Apostle Paul have used sports as a metaphor for the spirtual life:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. —Hebrews 12:1

We’ll take note of specific sports outreaches and ministries in the next few weeks, as the Olympics play out. But it seems appropriate to start out with a short reflection on Paul’s use of the language of sports to talk about spiritual truth. Ron Hutchcraft has a devotional message (in text and audio) that examines what Paul means when he talks about running the race and carrying the torch, with an Olympics twist:

Now, Paul must have enjoyed the ancient Olympic Games. He made several references to them. As he writes his letter to his spiritual apprentice, Timothy, you can almost picture Paul as a torch bearer of the message of Jesus Christ. Writing from a prison cell, he’s on his last lap before he is going to collapse into the arms of Jesus. But right now he’s concerned about who will carry the torch from here.

Read the full devotional for more—and check back later this week as we look at sports ministries here in the community!

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