“I urge you, by the grace with which you are clothed, to press on in your race and to exhort all people, that they may be saved. Do justice to your office with constant care for both physical and spiritual concerns. Focus on unity, for there is nothing better. Bear with all people, even as the Lord bears with you; endure all in love … Devote yourself to unceasing prayers; ask for greater understanding than you have. Keep on the alert … Bear the diseases of all, as a perfect athlete.… If you love good disciples, it is no credit to you; rather with gentleness bring the more troublesome ones into submission.… The time needs you (as pilots [of a sailing vessel] needs winds and as a storm tossed sailor needs a harbor) in order to reach God. Be sober as God’s athlete … Stand firm, like an anvil being struck with a hammer. It is the mark of a great athlete to be bruised, yet still conquer.… Understand the times. Wait expectantly for God who is above time.… Do not let the widows be neglected. After the Lord, you be their guardian” (The Letters of Ignatius, Polycarp, 1–3; emphasis added).
That was good advice then, and it is still good advice today. Christian leaders should:
- Prayerfully step up and make a difference, and especially so within the context of their current time.
- Stand firm, by God’s grace and love, like an anvil being struck with a hammer.
- Especially demonstrate this same grace and love to those who are physically marginalized by society or spiritually in need of rescue.
- Know that from time-to-time they will get bruised, fall, … and even to some degree fail. The great athletes are able to still conquer (i.e., stand firm) while bruised.
- Not only focus on those who have their act together and follow their lead. They should gently reach out to those who cause them and others trouble and work for what brings about peace and unity to the body of Christ and the soul of an individual. People who are well don’t need a physician but the sick do.