Olympic Glory – or not

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games are in their final week. The performances have once again been tributes to the skill and dedication of those who participate in the games. The sacrifice has been huge. As the numerous NBC personal vignettes testify, many of these athletes have given their whole lives to reach for Olympic glory. It is a heady goal to be acknowledged as the best in the world–to win the gold medal. For many at the games, it is enough just participate in the Olympics, to compete with the best, even if they don’t win the gold. The glory of the Olympics compels these athletes as well. But there is a problem with pursuing Olympic glory. In the pursuit of medals there is the danger of making this pursuit the most important goal in life. You see, the Living God has demanded of man that He be most important in our lives. It is the pursuit of God’s glory that is to dominate human life. That is what people were designed to be: pursuers of the glory of God. Romans 1:21-32 addresses this very issue.

This Romans passage explains what happens when the glory of God is exchanged for the glory of something else.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened... Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:21;24-25

When the pursuit of God’s glory is not at the center of one’s life, sexual immorality will eventually follow. The Olympics demonstrate the truth of Paul’s words. Note this headline from the MSNBC website on February 17th, entitled:

Cold days, hot nights: Olympic Village secrets – For greatest athletes on earth, flirting comes naturally

The article goes on to explain its headline:

Inevitably, some athletes get beyond flirting. That’s why the Vancouver
organizers have laid in a stock of 100,000 condoms, which works out to 14 for
each of the 7,000 athletes, coaches, trainers and officials housed in the
Games’ two villages. (Apparently, skiing, skating and sliding aren’t the only
activities at which Olympians excel.)

The distribution of free condoms at the Olympics goes back at least to
1992 and Barcelona. In 2000, Sydney organizers thought that 70,000 would be
enough. They were wrong and had to send out for 20,000 more. Beijing also
ordered 100,000 condoms with an Olympic motto: Faster, higher, stronger.

This is not pleasant reading. Frankly, it turns my stomach. But if we and our children are going to watch the Olympics and admire the performances of these athletes, it is essential that we think about these performances in the context of God and the glory that is rightfully his. Attaining athletic excellence, or any other type of excellence, does not give man the right to live as he pleases. The headlong pursuit of glory and human excellence apart from the glory of God is exchanging the truth for a lie. It will result in immorality. In the MSNBC article there is no hint of alarm or concern about the sexual sins being committed in the Olympic village. Indeed, the International Olympic Committee has accepted–and even endorsed–this behavior by supplying condoms to the athletes.

Colossians 2:8 warns against being taken captive by things which depend upon deceptive human tradition. The fascination with the extraordinary accomplishments of Olympic athletes is a subtle way this captivity can take place. The stark reality is that we are watching many young men and women whose pursuit of Olympic glory is leading them straight to hell. We can certainly be impressed by the level of excellence these young people have achieved. But we do them and our children a huge disservice if we stop there. May we as Christians, who alone know what it means to live for God’s glory, be moved with alarm and compassion at the way our society has embraced and honors sexual sin. The medals these athletes have won or hope to win will be of no value when they stand before God and are confronted with their sin of exchanging the glory of God for a lie. Here is yet another opportunity to follow God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 6 to talk about him to our children in all that we do.

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