24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Here at Greenville College we students hear that salvation’s gift comes at single time when a person chooses Jesus but sanctification requires a lifetime of work. Above in St. Paul’s letter to Corinth he tells the recipients the path of Christianity requires discipline if any reward is to be earned. So what is discipline?
When in doubt, dictionary out. Defined by ole Webster as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience,” discipline insinuates regulation, exclusion, and restriction. This pains the ear of college students pursuing freedom, especially the freedom to make mistakes. But St. Paul makes a strong claim in this letter by continuing in verse 26-27:
“26Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
He doesn’t leave room for himself to wander without direction and live without discipline. There isn’t much room for live and let live and instead he tells Christians to follow the path of sanctification with fervor and direction. This letter was written to Corinth nearly 2000 years ago; so how does it apply to Christianity in the United States of America? The usual interpretation in today’s age of these verses promotes a Franciscan lifestyle involving near poverty and few possessions. In contrast, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness endorse an individualistic search for material satisfaction in freedom. Both of these perspectives however relate to belongings instead of character. But what if self-controlled Christianity related more to the soul behind discipline than the appearance of it? As Americans we are submerged in coziness, easily allowing us to collapse into purposeless consumption. Instead let us be like an athlete in training. Participants in athletics do not starve themselves but limit their style of food choices. In like manner Christian Americans could use our comfort of income to achieve goals for ourselves and most certainly others, but also restrain our indulgence. As runners on a team motivate each other when enduring the race, let’s encourage each other in character, energy, and devotion.