We live in a sports-crazed society where people intertwine their hearts with a superstar or with a certain team. Indeed, we love the competition of “athletes.” In the book, “When Children Become People: TheBirth of Chidhood in Early Christianity,” the authors (O.M. Beeke and Brian McNeil) point out that John Chrysostom wrote that Christians need to bring up their children as “athletes” (Greek-αθλητες) for Christ (p. 164). This was in accordance with Ephesians 6:4-“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV).
It seems that many parents are driven to make their kids be αθλητες in many different arenas such as sports, music, drama, education, etc. Parents and the children can make great sacrifices of time, energy, and money in order ot become “champions” in one of these arenas of competition. Yet, the greatest area of competition for Christians is the arena of being a devoted follower of Christ. What sacrifices are parents and children making for the sake of the gospel being instilled and promoted in their lives? What is being sacrficed in order to live a gospel-centered-drivne life for the cause and glory of Christ?
Our Christian children as αθλητες can become champions in the varoious arenas of life, but if they are not primarily being raised first to be a champion for Christ, then all of the other sacrifices are “rubbish/garbage” (Philippians 3:8).
We must communicate through words and deeds that Christ comes first before everything else-…”that He migth be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18). Our priority is Christ, not other. When it comes to the other opportunities, we ought to tell our children to always strive to do their best , not for themselves, but for Christ. They ought to do their best at basketball or violion lessons and be a champion in those, not for themselves, but for Christ. We ought to tell and help our children do quality homework, instead of just getting it done because we are seeking to be champions, doing all things in the name of Christ (Colossians 3:17). Homework and studying are not done for teachers, parents, grades, but only for Christ. Mediocrity and shoddy efforts in any area of life do not honor the name of Christ.
Parents, let us all labor together in the gospel and grace of Christ, not for mediocrity or “just getting by”, but let us seek to be and to raise αθλητες for Christ.