Let us run our race in faith and righteousness


From a letter to the Philippians by Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr
(Cap. 9, 1-11: Funk 1, 275-279)


I ask you all to respond to the call of righteousness and to practice boundless patience. Your own eyes have seen it not only in blessed Ignatius, Zosimus and Rufus, but in others from among you as well, to say nothing of Paul and the other apostles. Be assured that all these men did not run their race in vain. No, they ran it in faith and in righteousness and are now with the Lord in the place that they have earned, even as they were once with him in suffering. Their love was not for this present world; rather, it was for him who died for our sakes and, on account of us, was raised up again by God.
Be steadfast, then, and follow the Lord’s example, strong and unshaken in faith, loving the community as you love one another. United in the truth, show the Lord’s own gentleness in your dealings with one another, and look down on no one. If you can do good, do not put it off, because almsgiving frees one from death. Be subject to one another, and make sure that your behavior among the pagans is beyond reproach. Thus you will be praised for the good you have done, and the Lord will not be blasphemed because of you. But woe to that man on whose account the Lord’s name is blasphemed. Therefore, teach everyone to live soberly, just as you live yourselves.
I am greatly saddened on account of Valens who at one time was presbyter among you; he does not understand the position to which he was called. So I urge all of you to be chaste and honest, to avoid avarice and to refrain from every form of evil. If a man cannot control himself in these ways, how can he teach someone else to do so? If he does not avoid greed, he will be defiled by idolatrous practices and will be reckoned as one of the pagans who know nothing of the Lord’s judgment. Or, as Paul teaches: Do we not know that the holy ones will judge the world?
However, I have never seen of heard of anything of that sort among you, for whom blessed Paul labored and whom he commends at the beginning of his letter. For he boasted about you in all the churches which at that time were the only ones that had come to know God; we ourselves had not yet come to that knowledge.
Brothers, I am deeply sorry for Valens and for his wife; may the Lord grant them true repentance. As for yourselves, be self-controlled in this respect. Do not look upon such people as enemies, but invite them back as frail members who have gone astray, so that the entire body of which you are a part will be saved. In doing this you are contributing to your own spiritual development.