A lot has happened since my last post that has kept me from writing another. I’ve started a new job, graduated, and travelled up and down the country a few times. But life is settling back down now, so I thought I really have no excuse not to kick myself back into gear and write something new!
In this post, I want to talk about a passage from the New Testament that really grabbed my attention a couple of days ago, and that I’ve returned to every day since. I don’t know if I’ve heard it spoken about much before, but it’s a passage that I wasn’t overly familiar with, yet it was exactly what I needed to read when I stumbled across it. The section I’m talking about is 2 Timothy 2:1-13. You can read the whole section via the link, so I’m just going to pull a few bits out to talk about now.
Paul uses three images to show Timothy what it means to be a faithful Christian: a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. I love it when the Bible gives us different ways of thinking about something like this, because every Christian is different, and different things will chime with us at different times.
For me, it was the soldier image that got me thinking. I’m obviously not a soldier, and I have no plans to become one, but it’s an image that resonates with a lot of what I was studying in my Anglo-Saxon modules at university. As a people, the Anglo-Saxons lived in a social hierarchy that centred on the relationship between a lord and his warriors. A good, Anglo-Saxon warrior would be unswervingly loyal to his lord, serving him and fighting for him, and in return the lord would make sure that his warriors had food, shelter and, of course, alcohol.
Timothy, and the rest of Paul’s first century AD audience, wouldn’t have known about the Anglo-Saxons, but they would have known about the Roman army – the disciplined fighting machine that was largely responsible for the expansion of the Roman empire across most of Europe and parts of the Near East.
These two historical examples add weight to the verses in 2 Timothy where Paul writes, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
What suffering do Christians share in? We share in the suffering of Jesus himself, as we give up everything to follow him, and we share in each other’s suffering, not so that everyone’s miserable, but so that, as a community, we share each other’s strength. Just like the Anglo-Saxon warriors, the Christian life is a life bound together with the others who are around us through unswerving loyalty to the Lord. It is important not to lose sight of this fact in a world where it’s very easy to try and live a Christian life alone.
And, just like the Roman soldiers, we’re called to be disciplined. This also relates to community, as the Roman army functioned so well because all of its soldiers worked together as a well-disciplined unit. Individually we are called to be focused on living for God (just like the athlete image in this passage), but a big part of that discipline is learning to work with those that God has put alongside us, even if we don’t get along with them at first. It would be naïve to think that you’re going to automatically get along with every Christian you meet just because you share a faith, but because you share that faith you are called to learn how to love that person and work with them for the sake of God and the other Christians around you.
I could say more on this passage, but I’m going to leave it there for now. I might revisit it in the coming weeks to have a look at the athlete and farmer images in more detail, but this will be enough for you to chew on for now! I think the main takeaway from what I’ve been talking about here is that we Christians are called to be disciplined in our service to God, fully focused on him, and fully loyal to him, but an essential part of that is supporting each other, and learning to live a community with the single goal of doing whatever work God has for us.