Emperor of choice

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Paul and Popular Culture

It is interesting to see St. Paul picking up ‘word-pictures’ from the world of sport and entertainment. Read these passages from Paul’s letters to the Church at Corinth and to Timothy:

Everyone 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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.(1 Cor 9:24-27)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4 : 7-8)

Games (read blood sport) and Sports were  an important aspect of entertainment in the Roman Empire. The Ismithian Games were held at Corinth every two years, and apostle Paul drew from the world of sports and entertainment to speak to his audience (at Corinth and elsewhere). May be, he was a sport lover. May be, he himself was at the Ismithian games. Perhaps, may be not. But nonetheless, he uses sports to connect with his audience and help them grasp a spiritual truth.

Paul draws insights from important aspects of the games such as the race, atheletes, the prize, winning, training that goes along to make it a possiblity, the rules of the game, the skill and tact required etc to explain christian life. Apostle Paul does use the ordinary aspects of everyday life, perhaps the popular culture of his day to speak divine truths. What strikes me in this passage is Paul connecting with the ‘longing’ to win the prize that is present in the (not-so-spiritual) atheletic event (and in all of Corinth by extention) and uses it to speak about ‘be-longing’ to Christ.

The bible does offer us ways of connecting to the urban ‘longing and belonging’. Using aspects of popular culture is not something allien to the followers of Jesus, and definitely not to Apostle Paul. We must likewise pick up aspects of popular culture to speak to contemporary urban audience.