Friday, August 23, 2013

Teamwork advice from Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven letters on a journey from Antioch to Rome, ad 107-110. One of those letters was to the young Polycarp, a leader of the church in Smyrna. Ignatius' language within the letter sounds similar to Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus. He continues a trend in those letters to utilize present cultural metaphors to convey his encouragement. His favored parallel is sport. At one point he writes, "Be vigilant as God's athlete. The prize is incorruption and eternal life" (ch 2). In another spot he writes, "What makes a great athlete is the fighting and then achieving victory. We must especially endure all things for God's sake that he may endure us". In his encouragement of Polycarp and other leaders in the church he appeals to the analogy and reality of sport.

When he turns his attention from Polycarp in particular to the church he combines the metaphors of  sport and military to give advice on teamwork.  

Work with one another, compete together, run together, suffer together, and get up together as God's stewards, companions, and servants. Seek to please the one in whose army you serve. From him you receive your wages. Let none of you be found to be a deserter. Let your baptism remain your weapons. Your faith as your helmet. Love is your spear. Endurance is your full armor. Your down payment is your works so that you can receive back wages. Be patient with one another as God is with you (ch 6).

Some might call his counsel common sense advice, but there is a unique difference - Ignatius' emphasizes the role of "together", in other places he names this as "unity". Ignatius applies what he understands about the nature of the Triune God to the kind of life we are called into when we join the way of Jesus. Ignatius' advice is good for life in the church, or working in an organization. It is also good advice for all those who are about to embark upon sporting endeavors. I am especially thinking of my boys who begin their football season tomorrow.

1 comment:

Senior Luncheon said...

Thanks Jason. I always appreciate your insight and application of the early church leaders. How is it that your boys could be ready for football?! I know you will enjoy these years as you have enjoyed all the others. Blessings friend...Ed Bryosn