Notes for
A Christian Perspective
on Sport

Franciscan University of Steubenville Athletic Dept. Retreat
August 12, 2022

curated by Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR


John Paul II:
25th World Day of Tourism
(27 September 2004)

3. St. Paul the Apostle proposed the image of the athlete to the Christians of Corinth in order to illustrate Christian life and as an example of effort and constancy (cf. I Cor 9: 24-25). Indeed, the correct practice of sport must be accompanied by moderation and training in self-discipline. It very often also requires a good team spirit, a respectful attitude, appreciation of the qualities of others, honest sportsmanship and humility in recognizing one’s own limitations.…The Christian can also find sports helpful for developing the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance in the race for the wreathe that is “imperishable”, as St. Paul writes.

Virtue of Sport
Catholic Register Editorial
July 25, 2012

John Paul II was affectionately known as the “athlete pope.” As a student he was a runner and soccer player and later became an ardent swimmer, skier and hiker. He believed that sport, in its pure form, could provide an arena for evangelization because the attributes required to become a champion — sacrifice, passion, obedience, discipline — were similar in many respects to those required to become a saint.

Sportsmanship, as an ideal, is all about character. It’s about humility, honesty, loyalty, respect and generosity. It is not a quest for perfection but, like a faith journey, is a quest for virtue. There will be moments of temptation and times of failure but the true sportsman, like the faithful person, will acknowledge setbacks with integrity and strive to become better.

John Paul II once said the Church values sport because it advances the complete development of the body and soul and contributes to the advancement of a more human society. He believed the virtues evident in true sport could cultivate harmony among cultures and peace among nations.

“Sports have, in themselves, an important moral and educative significance,” said John Paul II. “They are a training ground of virtue, a school of inner balance and outer control, an introduction to more true and lasting conquests.”

He called sport a gift from God to mankind.



George Feeney
 “A Catholic Perspective: Physical Exercise and Sports,”
Aquinas Press, 1995, p. 20.

Pope John Paul II…“views sports as a school for social education in that it encourages solidarity, brotherhood and loyalty. He sees it also as a school of human virtue, inspiring the noble ideals of courage, honesty, sense of duty, fair play, discipline, tenacity, self-control, and chivalry. He values exercises and sports as a means of greater self-mastery and as a way of helping people through basic human virtues, to develop a balanced personality. He views the dignity of the human person as the goal of sporting activity.”



Bro. Jude McKenna, OFM, Cap., former professional boxer, judo professional and an Olympic coach, reflects on John Paul II’s statement:

“Sports have, in themselves, an important moral and educative significance.”“I always believed in the value of [sport] as a school for personal discipline,” Bro. Jude wrote. “Sport gives people focus and vision. They aim for something, they train for it and many of them are or have become tremendously disciplined people. This is a quality that adds to the journey of life, making them much better citizens, fathers and mothers of the future.”

“John Paul II urged the faithful to find a sport “which contributes to the love of life, teaches sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of every human person.”

It “…is no easy task for athletes — it takes commitment, sacrifice and countless hours of practice,” Bro. Jude said. “This applies, also to our journey of faith where we work to receive our eternal reward.”

“I think that our minds, our spirits and the whole soul of m/w all operate better via sport. In every dimension, where the body is kept fit and clean and pure, overall morale is improved.” Bro. Jude emphasizes John Paul II’s statement that “sports are a godly endeavor when approached in prayer and love.”



Developing a Theology of Sport
Today’s Parent Note is contributed by Andy Burns,
Religion and Family Life Consultant for the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board
Ontario, Canada

Theology challenges us to reflect upon our relatedness to God, to others and to the created order. A study of theology can enrich our understanding of the meaning and purpose of living and of our daily activities.

A Christian theology of sport invites and encourages each member of the Church to enter conversation about the meaning, purpose and value of sport from a faith perspective. It is an activity in which we desire to express our beliefs about the relationship between sport and the Gospel and how that relationship may be best lived out in our everyday sporting activities.



"Lessons from World of Sports"
Archbishop Jurkovic
December 1, 2017 | Jim Fair

Pope Francis said in his message for the FIFA World Cup, “In this practice of sports, we can see a metaphor for life. In life it is necessary ‘to train’, to strive to achieve important results. The spirit of sports becomes an image for the necessary sacrifices in order to grow in the virtues that are necessary for the character of a person. For a person to improve, extensive and consistent ‘training’ is necessary, and much more is needed to achieve an encounter and peace between ‘improved’ people! It’s necessary ‘to train’ a lot…” (Pope Francis, Video message for FIFA World Cup 2014. Translation in L’Osservatore Romano, 12 20 June 2014).

When athletes prepare themselves for a race or a match, the methodical workout develops their talents and helps them to overcome personal challenges, learn discipline and a sense of sacrifice. All this creates the pathway for authentic human development since it requires sacrifice, tenacity, patience, and, above all, humility, which does not receive applause from the public, but which is the real secret of victory.

…the Church attaches great value to sports education, which is a training ground of virtue, a school of inner balance and outer control, an introduction to more true and lasting conquests. As a matter of fact, athletic activities — when practiced in the proper manner — can develop strength, proficiency, perseverance, and harmony, while, at the same time, favoring interior growth, becoming a school of loyalty, courage, endurance, tenacity, and fraternity.

Since “in sport, as in life, competing for the result is important, but playing well and fairly is even more important!” (Pope Francis, Address to participants in the “Sport and Faith” conference: ensure sport is inclusive and its benefits are accessible to all. 05 October 2016), the real challenge before us is, therefore, to maintain the honesty of sport.



Pope Francis
Letter to Cardinal Farrell on the New Document on Sport:
“Giving the Best of Yourself. A Document about the Christian Perspective on Sport and the Human Person.”
June 01, 2018, ZENIT

“I would like to emphasize the role of sports as a means for the mission and sanctification. The Church is called to be a sign of Jesus Christ in the world, also thru the sports practiced in oratories, parishes, schools, and associations… Every occasion is good for announcing Christ’s message, “whether the time is favorable or unfavorable” (2 Tm 4:2). It is important to bring, to communicate this joy transmitted by sports, which is none other than the discovery of the human potentials that incite us to unveil the beauty of creation and of the human being, made in the image and likeness of God. Sports can open the way to Christ in those places or environments where, for different reasons, it is not possible to announce Him directly; and people, with their witness of joy, practicing a sport as a [team], can be messengers of the Good News.…

“We need to deepen the close connection that exists between sport and life, which can enlighten one another, so that the effort to surpass oneself in an athletic discipline also serves as a stimulus to always improve as a person, in all of life’s aspects. This pursuit puts us on the path that, with the help of God’s grace, can lead us to the fullness of life that we call holiness. Sport is a very rich source of values and virtues that help us to become better people. Like the athlete during training, practicing sport helps us to give our best, to discover our limits without fear, and to struggle daily to improve…



"Giving the Best of Yourself:
A Document on the Christian Perspective
on Sport and the Human Person"

The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life
June 1, 2018

This marks the first document of the Holy See on sport.

Giving one’s very best is a fundamental theme in sports, as athletes both individually and collectively strive to achieve their goals in the game. When a person gives his very best, he experiences satisfaction and the joy of accomplishment. The same is true in human life in general and in living out the Christian faith.…This document attempts to help the reader understand the relationship between giving our very best in sports and in living the Christian faith in every aspect of our lives.

Pope Francis in an address to the Italian Tennis Federation (8 May 2015) said, “The Church is interested in sport because the person is at her heart, the whole person, and she recognizes that sports activity affects the formation, relations and spirituality of a person”[2] .

The universality of the sports experience, its communicative and symbolic strength, and its great educational and training potential are very evident today. Sport is now a phenomenon of civilization that fully resides in contemporary culture and permeates the styles and choices of many people’s lives so we could question ourselves as Pius XII did: “How can the Church therefore not be interested in sport?” (Address to Italian Sportsmen, 20 May 1945).

…“The Church must be in the front ranks in this area, in order to plan a special apostolate adapted to the needs of athletes and especially to promote sports which can create the condition of a life rich in hope,” said John Paul II (Address to the participants in the National Convention of the Italian Episcopal Conference, 25 November, 1989). The Church not only encourages sports practice but also wants to be “in” sport, considered as a modern Courtyard of the Gentiles and an areopagus where the Gospel is announced.…

The Church has been engaged in dialogue with sport from the earliest years of its existence. It is well known that St. Paul used sports metaphors to explain the Christian life to the Gentiles. In the medieval period, lay Catholics played games and sports on feast days, which accounted for a good deal of the year, as well as on Sundays. Such play found theological support in the writing of Thomas Aquinas who argued that there can be “a virtue about games” because virtue has to do with moderation. A virtuous person, by this account, should not be working all the time, but also needs time for play and recreation. The humanists of the Renaissance and the early Jesuits made use of Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of virtue when they decided that students needed time for play and recreation during the course of the school day. This was the original rationale for the inclusion of play and sports in educational institutions in the Western world.

…the purpose was not to create a “Christian” sport that was different, separate or an alternative development but to offer a vision for sport that is grounded in a Christian understanding of the human person and of a just society.

…The experience of sport is one that involves justice, sacrifice, joy, harmony, courage, equality, respect, and solidarity on this search for meaning. Ultimate meaning from a Christian understanding is the ultimate happiness that is found in the experience of the all-encompassing love and mercy of God as realized in a relationship with Jesus Christ in the Spirit which takes place in and is lived out in the community of faith.

The term ‘sport’ itself, of course, is more recent. It stems from the Old French expression desporter or se desporter — which is a derivate of the Latin word de(s)portare — and means to amuse oneself. Eventually, in the early Modern Age the abbreviation ‘sport’ was coined, and from that time on, the term was used to describe the variety of activities that fascinate so many people as athletes or as spectators.…

…in the “throwaway culture” of which Pope Francis often reminds us, lasting commitments often scare us. Sport helps us in this regard by teaching that it is worth embracing long-term challenges. Training and sustained efforts to improve are worthwhile, as the highest goods can only be achieved when people seek such goods without shying away from uncertainties and challenges that come with various responsibilities. In addition, overcoming difficulties such as injuries and resisting temptations to cheat in a game help strengthen one’s character through perseverance and self-control.

The word competition alludes to this experience, as the word comes from the two Latin roots “com” –with –and “petere” — to strive or to seek. The competitors are “striving or seeking together” for excellence. The many examples of athletes shaking hands and embracing or even socializing or sharing a meal after an intense contest have much to teach us in this regard.

"Sporting activity," John Paul II said, “must be an unavoidable occasion to practice human and Christian virtues of solidarity, loyalty, good behavior and respect for others, who must be seen as competitors and not as mere opponents or rivals” (John Paul II, Address to the Mexican national soccer team, 3 February 1984.) In this way, sports can set higher goals beyond victory, toward the development of the human person in a community of teammates and competitors.

…Nowadays we can see many manifestations of individualism. Individual goals sometimes seem to prevail over the common good. Sport is a school of teamwork that helps us overcome selfishness. In it the individuality of each player is related to the team that works together toward achieving a common goal.

Each member is unique and contributes in a particular way to the team. Individuals are not lost in the whole, because they are valued in their particularity. They all have a unique importance that makes the team stronger. A great team is always made up of great individuals who do not play alone but together.

…In sports, the gifts and talents of each individual in particular are placed at the service of the team.

People who participate in sport are very familiar with the notion of sacrifice. No matter the level of expertise or type of activity involved, team or individually focused, the athlete must subject themselves to discipline and focus on the task at hand if they are to learn and acquire the necessary skill. To achieve this often means that the person has to follow a regular and structured program. This is best done when the sport participant accepts that they will have to take on a path that involves some level of hardship, self-denial and humility. This is because learning and performing a sport always involves an encounter with failure, frustration and challenge.…Although addressing Olympians, Saint John Paul II has this to say on the value of sacrifice in sport for all athletes, no matter their level: “…we admired the feats of the great athletes, who sacrificed themselves for years, day after day, to achieve those results. This is the logic of sport, especially Olympic sports; it is also the logic of life: without sacrifices, important results are not obtained, or even genuine satisfaction” (John Paul II, Homily on the occasion of the Jubilee of sports people, 29 October 2000).

These encounters with sacrifice in sport can help athletes form their characters in a particular way. They can develop the virtues of courage and humility, perseverance and fortitude. The common experience of sacrifice in sport can also help believers understand more fully their vocation as children of God. Maintaining a life of prayer, a rich sacramental life, and working for the common good, are frequently accompanied by many obstacles and difficulties. We try to overcome these challenges by our steadfast persistence and self-discipline, and with the grace that flows from God. “Strict discipline and self-control, prudence, a spirit of sacrifice and dedication,” (John Paul II, Address to the delegates of the Italian mountain climbing club, 26 April 1986) according to Saint John Paul II, represent the spiritual, psychological and physical qualities tested in many sports. The mental and physical demands and challenges of sport can help to strengthen one’s spirit and self-awareness. A Catholic account of the anthropological value of sport and sacrifice is grounded in the everyday world of all players. They know through their lived experience that sacrifice and suffering have a potentially transformative nature.

…We are asked to live our sport in and with the Spirit, since as Saint John Paul II once said, “You are true athletes when you prepare yourselves not only by training your bodies but also by constantly engaging the spiritual dimensions of your person for a harmonious development of all your human talents” (John Paul II, Address to athletes of the Athletics world championships in Rome, 2 September 1987).

Pope Francis said to members of the European Olympic Committee: “When sports are considered only within economic parameters or for the sake of victory at any cost, one runs the risk of reducing athletes to mere merchandise for the increasing of profit. These same athletes enter into a system that sweeps them away, they lose the true meaning of their activity, the joy of playing that attracted them as children and that inspired them to make many real sacrifices and become champions” (Francis, Address to members of the European Olympic Committee, 23 November 2013).

…”The pastoral care of sport is a necessary moment and an integral part of the ordinary pastoral care of the community. The first and specific purpose of the Church in the sports field is manifested as a commitment to give meaning, value and perspective to the practice of sport as a human, personal and social fact” (Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, “Sport e Vita Cristiana”, n. 43).

The human person who is created in the image and likeness of God is more important than sport. The person does not exist to serve sport, but rather sport should serve the human person in his or her integral development.

As has been mentioned, the person is a unity of body, soul and spirit, this means that the embodied experiences of play and sport necessarily also involve and impact young people at the level of soul and spirit. For this reason, they can be a part of the education of the whole person. Pope Francis has encouraged viewing play and sport as a part of a holistic education which addresses the head, the heart and the hands, or what one is thinking, feeling and doing.…

Sport Pastoral Ministry

The Church’s commitment to sport is to ensure that sport always remains an experience capable of giving meaning and value to people’s lives, at whatever level it is promoted or practiced, in any place or environment where it is organized. Sport must always be aimed at the integral formation of the person, improving social conditions, and the building of interpersonal relationships. This is why the pastoral care of sport is fitting in many environments and can be promoted in many contexts.

In his talk to the Italian Sports Center in 2014, Pope Francis encouraged his listeners and encourages us today to give the very best of ourselves, not only in sport, but in the rest of our lives as well: “As sportsmen, I invite you not only to play, like you already do, but there is something more: challenge yourself in the game of life like you are in the game of sports. Challenge yourself in the quest for good, in both Church and society, without fear, with courage and enthusiasm. Get involved with others and with God; Don’t settle for a mediocre “tie”, give it your best, spend your life on what really matters and lasts forever” (Francis, Address to members of the sports associations for the 70th Anniversary of the foundation of the CSI (Italian Sports Center), 7 June 2014).



"More than a Game: A Theology of Sport"
Jeremy R. Treat
Themelios: an International Journal for Students of Theological and Religious Studies, Volume 40 - Issue 3

What is the meaning of sport? There seem to be two polar responses: some dismiss sports as merely a game, while others worship sports as nearly a god. The first response minimizes sports as a childlike activity, good for passing time but largely insignificant for the deep matters of life. The second response deifies sports, expressing religious devotion and offering sacrifices of money and time at the altar of winning.

What is the meaning of sport? There seem to be two polar responses: some dismiss sports as merely a game, while others worship sports as nearly a god.

The church has always struggled to rightly understand the role of games in God’s greater purposes. The Apostle Paul seemed to appreciate sports, or he was at least familiar with them, using athletic metaphors such as running the race (1 Cor 9:24), fighting the good fight (1 Tim 6:12), and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).

In the first few centuries of the church, however, Christians were largely against the sports of the day, albeit for understandable reasons. The early Olympic games were dedicated to pagan gods like Zeus and Nike and athletes usually competed in the nude. Moreover, the most popular sporting event — the gladiator games — involved throwing Christians into the ring with wild bears and lions.

Up until the late eighteenth century, sports were for the most part recreational. The industrial revolution, however, laid the railroad tracks for the professionalization of sports, with the train pulling into the station in the latter half of the twentieth century. With the professionalization and popularization of sports today, Christians have jumped on board, to say the least, seeing sports as a potential classroom for morality and a platform for evangelism.

How, then, ought followers of Jesus think of sports today?

Play…is the unstructured…activity that creatively enjoys the gift of creation. Play turns into a game when rules are added and teams are formed (in some cases). Sport, then, is when the rules of a game are universalized and there is the added element of agon, moving it from a mere game to a contest.

Jeremy Treat notes: I need to clarify at this point that by “sport” I do not necessarily mean what we think of with modern professionalized sport. It is debated whether that counts as “play” by definition, and in many ways modern sport is more about entertainment and business than about playful delight. The complex issues of sport and economics, culture, and sociology are not easily detangled from the games themselves, and engaging these aspects of the professional world of sports is beyond my scope.”

Competition has often been one of the most difficult aspects of a Christian understanding of sport. Can one love their neighbor while trying to block their shot, tackle them behind the line of scrimmage, or check them into the boards? The etymology of the word “competition” is helpful, for the Latin com-petito literally means “to strive together,” rendering sport a “mutually acceptable quest for excellence.” As iron sharpens iron, competition enhances play. Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew rightly argue that it is cooperation, not rivalry, that is at the heart of competition: “In sports, teams or individuals agree cooperatively to oppose one another within the stated goals, rules, and obstacles of the game.”

Within this context of playfully developing and delighting in God’s creation we can say that sports are part of God’s intention and design for creation.

Scripture clearly says that after God finished his work of creation, he proclaimed that it was all very good (Gen 1:31). This declaration of goodness does not merely pertain to the physical matter of creation (dirt and trees) but also to the cultural fabric of creation (developing and delighting). God cares about baptism and business, redemption and romance, Sabbath and sport. Playing sports was not meant to be a neutral activity, but was designed as a good part of the broader vision of humanity cultivating and cherishing God’s creation. Although sin and the fall certainly have done their damage to sports, one thing is clear: sports were made good and were part of God’s plan for human flourishing.

Sports can be a platform for evangelism or a classroom for morality, but they are first and foremost a playground for receiving and enjoying the goodness of the Creator.

But how does sin affect sports? The answer is twofold because all sin amounts to either taking a good thing and twisting it into a bad thing (sin as immorality) or taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing (sin as idolatry).24 Both aspects are crucial to understand how the fall affects sports.

In a world marred by sin, sports become a playground for violence (bench-clearing brawls), cheating (corked bats, deflated footballs, etc.), injury (especially life-threatening and brain-damaging injuries), and performance-enhancing drugs (haunting whole sports such as baseball, cycling, and track).

The effects of sin, however, are not limited to the individual immorality of athletes, but also extend to the systemic brokenness of sports teams, cultures, and industries. Modern professional sports are a powerful engine in the machine of American consumerism, greed, and narcissism. In many ways, modern professional sports simply represent the cultural brokenness of the society at large, but they also further shape the society as well. Sin shapes sport culture in a variety of systemic ways, such as the win-at-all-costs mentality that leaves in its wake broken families, compromised integrity, and wounded friendships.

Sin is not merely doing bad things, it is making a good thing an ultimate thing. The Bible calls this idolatry.

When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing it eventually turns into a destructive thing. Sports are more than a game, but they are certainly less than a god.

Just as sports were created good but can become twisted by sin, many people begin playing sports with a love for the game but then turn to using sports for a deeper love of fame, money, or accomplishments. Sports begin as a gift but can easily evolve into a god.

…When sinners understand that they are justified by the blood of Christ, this frees them from having to justify themselves through their accomplishments. Sports then become a gift; they no longer bear the pressure of being the way that we prove ourselves to the world. Because of grace, God’s people are motivated not by guilt but by gratitude. Through the gospel, athletes can stop looking to sports to justify themselves and play sports as they were designed to be, as a gift to be enjoyed for their intrinsic good and to be stewarded for the good of others.

The core identity of a Christian is that he or she is “in Christ” by the work of the Spirit. This truth flows from the fountain of the gospel: the Christian’s identity is based not on their performance but on God’s grace. One is not a soccer player who happens to be a Christian. He or she is a Christian who plays soccer. The follower of Jesus does not need to build an identity through their accomplishments, for they have been given an identity because of Jesus’s accomplishment. Sports matter, but they must be understood from the right perspective. Because of the gospel, we are not defined by our sin nor by our success, but by our savior.

Sports ethics plays out on the field and off the field.

The church does not need more athletes who cut corners so they can get to the top and thank God, but rather athletes with integrity who are unwilling to compromise their conduct because they care more about what God thinks of them than what the world does.



William Barclay,
1 Cor. 9:24–27 — "The Letters to the Corinthians"
The Daily Study Bible series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 2000, c1975), 86.

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.

Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”

Exercises: Greek: agonizomai (ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee)
to struggle, literally (to compete for a prize), figuratively (to contend with an adversary), or genitive case (to endeavor to accomplish something): — fight, labor fervently, strive.

Paul was always fascinated by the picture of the athlete. An athlete must train with intensity if he is to win his contest; and Corinth knew how thrilling contests could be, for at Corinth the Isthmian games, second only to the Olympic games, were held. Furthermore, the athlete undergoes this self-discipline and this training to win a crown of laurel leaves that within days will be a withered chaplet. How much more should the Christian discipline himself to win the crown which is eternal life.

In this passage Paul sets out a kind of brief philosophy of life.

(i) Life is a battle.

(ii) To win the fight and to be victorious in the race demands discipline. We have to discipline our bodies; it is one of the neglected facts of the spiritual life that very often spiritual depression springs from nothing else than physical unfitness. If a man is going to do his best work in anything he must bring to it a body as fit as he can make it.

(iii) We need to know our goal. A distressing thing is the obvious aimlessness of the lives of so many people; they are drifting anywhere instead of going somewhere.

(iv) We need to know the worth of our goal.

(v) We cannot save others unless we master ourselves.



J. Paul Sampley,
"The First Letter to the Corinthians,"
in New Interpreter's Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck, vol. 10
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004), 909.

As Paul draws the first part of the digression to a close, he invites his readers, so familiar with the Athenaic and Isthmian games, the latter probably having been staged no more than eight miles from Corinth and most recently less than a year prior to this writing, to think of themselves as athletes, as indeed he considers himself. In the Greco-Roman world athleticism was highly valued, athletes were honored, and every major city had an arena. The games were analogous to war; the events were often those associated with battle. This association of games and battle fits Paul’s notion that God’s plan is like a battle and believers must be fit and ready (cf. 2 Cor 6:7; 1 Thess 5:8). To be the very best possible athlete — the function of the “only one wins the prize” argument (9:24) — requires discipline and self-control, self-mastery114 “in everything” as everyone in that culture surely knew; and it is this point upon which Paul seizes.

Believers are like famous athletes115 in that believers must exercise self-control “in all things” (pavnta panta, 9:25); they are unlike those athletes in that believers are running for imperishable rewards. In 9:25 Paul’s emphasis lies on the single term panta, “in all things,” “in everything.” Typically, Paul views life as an integrated whole; all of life is to be placed in service to the gospel and others.

Along this line it must not go unnoticed that when Paul describes the proper discipline appropriate to life in the gospel he expresses it in two verbs bearing on to; sw`ma (to soma), the body, that is, his own self, understood. The verbs  (hypopiazo, “to treat roughly” or here “to impose discipline”) and (doulago- geo, “to enslave or bring into subjection”) surround and have as their direct object “the body, the self”

In 9:26-27 Paul explicitly exemplifies the need and importance of self-mastery as a part of the daily life of the believer this side of the last judgment.

The first part of the digression closes with an ironic note that may echo Paul’s earlier cry of “Woe” if he does not preach the gospel. Would it not be ironic, he says, if after preaching to others he failed to practice what he preached, and, at the judgment, if he were found to be “disqualified” (adokimos, a technical term of athletics in which a competitor fails the test or is thrown out of the competition)? The implication is palpable: If Paul, the chosen apostle, can anticipate that he might be found disqualified in the last judgment because he did not exercise a training code and life appropriate to the gospel, then all other athletes in the gospel must reevaluate their discipline and practice and bring themselves into comportment with the gospel.…In this Pauline irony there is a cautionary word for all who, powered by the gospel, busy themselves so much with “helping” and “rescuing” others that they end up not taking proper care with their own self-discipline and thereby risk becoming disqualified. Giving of the self without proper care of the self can be self-destructive.

Paul relates one of the secrets of his evangelistic prowess: He goes to people, where they are, on their own terms. He does not require that they come to him or that they meet him on his own ground. He, a Jew, is apostle to gentiles, non-Jews, but they do not have to become Jews in order to be welcomed into the gospel. He knows that the gospel bridges ethnic boundaries and works its power in whatever context. he careful reader of 1 Corinthians will have noticed, in the immediately preceding chapter, another illustration of Paul’s willingness to adapt to others…



Kenneth L. Chafin and Lloyd J. Ogilvie,
The Preacher’s Commentary Series,Volume 30 : 1, 2 Corinthians,
Formerly The Communicator’s Commentary, T
Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1985, 117.

In these verses Paul begins by putting the price tag on spiritual leadership, and he closes with a solemn warning. The cost for spiritual leadership is spiritual discipline. The analogy he uses first is that of the track meet. Corinth hosted one of the most famous of the Greek athletic events, second only to the Olympic Games. It was impossible for anyone in the city not to be aware of the strict disciplines and the strenuous training. But Paul felt that the Christian race was different in at least two ways. The crown the runners received was a wreath which soon wilted, while the reward of the faithful Christian would last forever. Also, in the races only one person could win, while in the kingdom of God, every child of God has the potential for success. But there was one thing that Paul felt that each Christian had in common with the athletes — he or she needed discipline.

There is something in us that makes us want the rewards of accomplishment without paying the price.

We live in a day of “instant everything,” but there is no such thing as spiritual leadership without spiritual discipline. Growth involves consciously cutting out of one’s life everything that does not aid in reaching the goal. It involves patiently building into the life those skills and habits of thought and action that make the goal reachable.

The picture he paints with words is that he is not some shadow boxer who shows off his muscles by poking at the air but that he is in a real fight. Then as you read, you realize that the enemy he is describing is not some external foe who threatens his leadership but his own desires. His words “I discipline my body and bring it under subjection” (v. 27) obviously included all of the appetites of the body that had to be controlled, but they also included everything Paul meant in other places when he used the term “flesh.” That more-inclusive term described anything, whether physical or spiritual, that might undermine his effectiveness as God’s servant. He was saying that he stayed in a constant battle with himself in order to prevent doing anything that would disqualify him in the work.



1 Timothy 6:12 — St. Paul then tells Timothy to "compete well for the faith"…other translations say "Fight the good fight of the faith".

➣ Compete/Fight in Greek = agonizomai (ah-go-nee-zo-mai)
➣ Def: disciplined and determined struggle, to contend with an adversary, or to endeavor to accomplish something — fight, labor fervently, strive.
➣ Do you hear the word Agony? That is normal, life is difficult.
➣ To be a champion in sport, in life, or in faith requires great struggles…
➣ As St. John Paul II said: striving “in perseverance, in overcoming laziness and carelessness.”


Definition: Sport

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

physical activity engaged in for pleasure; play, recreate, game
SPORTSMAN: person considered with respect to living up to the ideals of sportsmanship

Cambridge Dictionary

a game, competition, or similar activity, done for enjoyment or as a job, that takes physical effort and skill and is played or done by following particular rules
all types of physical activity that people do to keep healthy or for enjoyment



Ben Roethlisberger
Ron Cook | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | 7/22/2022

“I feel like the game has changed. I feel like the people have changed in a sense. Maybe it’s because I got spoiled when I came in. The team was so important. It was all about the team. Now, it’s about me and this, that and the other.

“I might be standing on a soapbox a little bit, but that’s my biggest takeaway from when I started to the end. It turned from a team-first to a me-type attitude. It was hard. It’s hard for these young guys, too. Social media. They’re treated so well in college. Now, this new NIL stuff, which is unbelievable. They’re treated so special. They’re coddled at a young age because college coaches need them to win, too. I know coach [Terry] Hoeppner never coddled me [at Miami of Ohio]. Neither did [Bill] Cowher.”



Ruggers: this is the core of Franciscan rugby.<>➣ The pitch is your field for evangelization, your mission territory:
➣ With your witness of joy in playing the game with your absolute passion and your utmost dignity, you can be messengers of the Good News, setting a good example on how sport can be the school of virtue.

➥ Sport at FUS is a godly endeavor when approached in prayer and love…and played with dignity and passion.
➣ Learn well these lessons of sport and faith that you may be found trustworthy — with good team spirit, respectful attitude, appreciation of the qualities of others, honesty in the game and in life, and humility to recognize one’s own limitations…
➣ They will serve you well on your journey of life, as you grow into the fullness God created each of you to become.


✏ Before I forget, you might check out my website which has numerous additional resources:
“Apple Seeds”® : inspirational, motivation, quotations
Athletics and Sports Ethics and Virtue web resources