Saturday, August 16, 2008

What Makes The Olympics So Special?

So basically for two weeks every two years, the whole world (more or less) watches TV every night to see how a bunch of young people - teenagers! - are going to compete and break world records and make history. We expect these kids to do it. We expect young girls, aged 12 or 16 depending on your country of origin, to do amazing flips and stunts and balance and astound the world. We expect 19-year-old swimmers to improve and come back four years later at the ripe age of 23 and "smash" previous accomplishments in a historical epic achievement. 

Everybody's excited. When the US and Michael Phelps won the 4x200 relay by 8/100 of a second, FOUR of my friends reported they screamed they were so excited. Note: these aren't people that scream on a regular basis. 

Everybody has nationalistic pride. Everyone - couch potato, varsity athlete, working mom, wrinkled grandpa, sports fanatic, little girl, and of course, Olympian - is a part of TEAM USA. My friend commented today, "I love the Olympics cause you can go up to anyone and talk about it, and they'll know what you're talking about - you could have a passionate conversation with a total stranger." 

Excitement. Passion. Unity. Global Awareness. High Expectations For Young People. 

What a great description! If only we could find something these adjectives describe besides a world sporting event occurring every two years by rotation. 

Why doesn't this describe everyday life? Why doesn't this describe society at large? Why doesn't this describe THE CHURCH?

Olympians have an ultimate goal that is worth all suffering. Olympians have trainers that push them to be the best in the world. Therefore, Olympians have dedication far beyond what most people can begin to comprehend. 

In the above paragraph, I should be able to replace the word "Christian" with the word "Olympian." 

Christians have an ultimate goal that is worth all suffering: Jesus. Christians have the Spirit within them transforming and sanctifying and encouraging them into the image of Christ. Therefore, Christians have dedication and commitment to Christ to the death, far beyond what most people can begin to comprehend. 

I'm not giving a cheesy "everybody should be excited about TEAM GOD" or that kind of thing. But I do think the church  - as an institute and as individual believers - needs to reevaluate what our passion and excitement and expectations are. 

Olympians are a special breed of people, no doubt. But Christians are called to be holy, set apart, a royal priesthood, above and beyond everything else in this world. Maybe we should take a clue from these super-athletes, who run hard to win a prize that perishes. We need to run much harder for the glory that will never fade or diminish. 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. I Corinthians 9:24-27

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