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September 22, 2019 - The Sunathalon

It’s almost time again for the Olympic Games. They are scheduled for summer 2020 in Tokyo, and I’m excited. Most Christians know Paul describes the Christian life as a “race” (2 Timothy 4:7), but they may not know Paul has given this race a name: the sunathalon (pronounced “soon-ath-a-lon”).


We are familiar with the decathlon, a race of ten (deca–) events; and the pentathlon, a contest with five (pente–) events, but the sunathalon is a race of cooperation. Sun– means “with,” and athalon means competition. It’s a “together race!”


In his letter to the Philippians (4:2, 3), Paul tells Euodia and Syntyche to cooperate as “yoke–fellows” because they are running a sunathalon with Clement and Paul’s fellowworkers. (The Greek word sunathalon is translated by the phrase “labored side by side” in many English Bibles.)


Now can you picture the poor farmer harnessing two rebel oxen to a yoke with each beast trying to pull the plow in a different direction? On the other hand, when two powerful animals pull in unison and work in harmony, there is no limit to what can be accomplished!


One of our biggest faults as Christians has been to forget our brothers and sisters in our personal race for life — an idea completely foreign to the New Testament. Instead, we should think of our life more like a three-legged race.


Don’t you remember tying your legs together with dad’s old neckties and trying to stay in step? We all ran down the grassy field arm in arm, chanting cadence – “left, right, left, right!” We might fall down in a big tangle, but we laughed and got back up again and raced together.


Now imagine the fun as 50 – 100 – 300 Christians, arm in arm, laughing and singing cross the finish line! It’s a beautiful thing when we work together in harmony. Remember: no one crosses the heavenly finish line alone!

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