I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4: 6-7
Tradition has it that Paul, his execution imminent, penned/dictated the above words from his prison cell in Rome. He is reflecting on this life and ministry, really, throughout 1 and 2 Timothy, which is written in the form of a lengthy goodbye letter. The letters are also notes of instruction for the young disciple whose name the letter bears, and encouragement to the fledgling Christian community. What does the “good fight” and the “race” of the above verses refer to? I have always held that Paul means the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus in an often-hostile world. Could Paul have imagined that the message of hope, the glory of God in Christ that he so dynamically proclaimed, would transform the world. What Paul knew, completely and utterly, is that the gospel of a blessed and loving Savior had saved his life and transformed him into a messenger of grace. His life was poured out, as an offering, to the gospel that had blessed his life so entirely.
The “good fight” has really not changed that much for us. We do not suffer the same indignities and challenges of the early Christians but we live in a world that is largely indifferent to the message of Jesus. Perhaps much of the hostility comes from those who have only heard Christians arguing amongst themselves; splintering into factions and taking on a Pharisaic view of the things that are important to them. The good fight is, I think, sharing the news that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that we all might have life” (John 3:16a). Who are the people who struggle to have the “life” Jesus refers to, remembering that Jesus died for them, too, lived for them, rose and sends His spirit abroad to and for them? The homeless. The isolated. The institutionalized. Those who struggle daily with poverty, illness, abuse, violence (or the threat of it). The anxiety-filled young generation of our time who grow up in a world of climate change, burgeoning suicide rates, over-busy schedules, and little time to commune. We live in a world that grows uneasy with talking about God but, at the same time, longs and thirsts for a God they simply have not had the chance to know. We all have the Christ-light inside of us. Have we really been changed by it? Maybe that is a place we could pray into and reflect on, as we engage in the good fight of Jesus in this world in need and, hardest of all, share that gospel of love with all those in search of the life that Jesus offers.