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The Olympics & Our Desire to Rally

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The Olympics & Our Desire to Rally

After all of the controversies about Russia’s social injustices and lack of preparedness ahead of the games, the Olympics are finally underway. Holly and I are huge fans of the Olympics. It’s interesting to watch athletes perform and compete after decades of preparing and dreaming. For many of them, their entire lives have led up to that final moment. I also love the traditional of it all. While the modern Olympic games have only been going on for a little over a century, they are the continuation of the ancient Greek games that began in 776 B.C.

Like many people, the thing that grabs me the most is the sense of togetherness and harmony that the Olympics seem to promote. There isn’t another event in the world that regularly brings the planet together quite like the Olympics do. In fact, that seems to be the root of its popularity. Everyone is coming together to celebrate our commonality. Ultimately, we are celebrating the one thing we all have in common – our humanity. We so desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves that when an event like this comes up every four years, we can’t help but get sucked in. As one writer put it, the Olympics “are designed for people who want to care about something without considering why.”

Let’s Think About It

While I love the sentiment of togetherness the Olympics promotes, is our humanity really something that is worth celebrating? Is it really something that should get us excited and cause great emotion?

In short, no.

Certainly the Bible makes it clear that we are God’s most prized creation. In Genesis 1:26-27, it tells us that our Creator put his own image inside of us. He gave us something that he didn’t give to the stars, mountains, trees, lions, or ants. He placed a spiritual component inside of us that makes us much more than complex biological organisms. He branded us as his own.

But then Genesis 3 happened. Eve ate of the fruit, they both realized they were naked, and it all went downhill from there. When sin entered the world, the image of God inside of us – the very thing that made us distinct – shattered. It’s like when the motherboard inside my old laptop crashed. The thing that made it run was gone and it was nothing more than a $700 paperweight. It was obsolete, broken, and detached from its purpose. Sin broke the very thing – in fact, the only thing – about us that made us valuable.

Humanity detached from its God-given purpose is simply dangerous. We have our rare moments of goodness but history is largely marked by one horrifying atrocity after the next. With that image of God no longer operating inside of us, we’ve committed acts of genocide, waged horrible wars against one another, invented the concept of slavery, and turned self-preservation into our basic resting pulse.

When the Olympic flag is waved and the torch is finally lit, I love to watch everyone celebrate but I also grieve. I see God’s most prized creation grasping for something to rally around that will give us meaning, all while ignorant of the wonderful Creator who offers it so freely. In the end, we’re rallying around brokenness disguised as significance.

The Real Celebration

Deep in all of our hearts is a desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves. When we watch an event like the Olympics, it resonates with us because we were designed for that very thing. God created us to yearn for this because he is ultimately the one who gives it. In the end, our transcending commonality isn’t rooted in our humanity. It can only be rooted in Christ. The Church is what the Olympics will forever strive but always fail to be. I love how Peter puts it:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9)

When Jesus died on that cross for us and defeated death on the third day, he offered an opportunity to be made new to anyone who would accept it. As followers of Christ, we are infused with a new purpose and a new identity. The Church, made up of those who have accepted his offer, are a new race and nation that transcends any ethnic, racial, or geographical boundary. Our identity in Christ becomes the ultimate thing we rally around. While the Olympics is ultimately a vain celebration of ourselves, we can look to a day when all things will be made new and we will enthusiastically celebrate Christ.

The Challenge

As American Christians, I believe we have failed to demonstrate this to the outside world. We are known by our countless divisions and toxic vitriol. We proclaim the Gospel but we fail to demonstrate it. It’s time for us to rise up and demonstrate the hope and community we share in Christ. We are getting to live the reality that everyone else tragically searches for elsewhere. We serve a God who gave us value and then made us new after we failed him. Our identity in him transcends anything else that might give us meaning. It’s time for us to show the world what’s really worth caring about.

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