I’m not really a sporty person – more like a proud bench warmer.
In college, I won my first athletic award for “Most Academic Athlete.” That should tell you where my talent lies – off the field and in the library. I don’t even like watching sports. Excluding a collection of retired Canadian figure skaters, the number of athletes that I could list by name would fit on one hand. I would never pay for tickets to a game or voluntarily sit down and watch TSN or ESPN for fun.
But for a couple weeks every two years, I am the biggest sports fan. There’s a game streaming on my computer in the background, live medal updates blinking on my phone. I can’t get enough of them. For this brief period of time, I actually enjoy sports.
Because despite my usual indifference towards all things athletic, I absolutely love the Olympics.
Not everyone feels this way. The truth is, you don’t have to look too closely to see just how bad the Olympics really are. There’s no doubt that they’re a swirling mass of politics and debate, leaving host cities with crippling debt and little return on the huge venues they’ve spent years building. The games are full of corruption and ripe with greed, idolatry, and scandal. Each summer and winter game hits us with a new wave of environmental safety issues, doping and bribery scandals, health concerns, and local protests.
And yet, despite it all, I still love the Olympics.
Every two years, flags from across the globe are raised as athletes stand side by side atop a podium. Allies and feuding nations alike fight for their country without weapons or politics. They swim, run, and compete next to each other, shaking hands and congratulating one another at the finish.
For two short weeks, the entire world unites together in watching one global event.
And beyond the medals, beyond the competition between countries – we find common ground in the personal stories of athletes who have worked hard to be where they are. We watch those who have pushed their bodies to the limit on the off chance that the Olympic committee will hang a shiny lump of metal around their neck.
Together, we stand and cheer for these men and women who have dedicated thousands of hours to compete alongside the best. We cry with them over frustrating losses or devastating injuries; we watched live as their dreams faded before their eyes and can taste their disappointment. Regardless of podium results, we cheer for personal triumphs, for the underdogs, and for those who finished with integrity.
Some argue that the Olympics are simply pagan worship and glorification of individual human bodies. There is truth to this statement: most of the world is quick to praise the strength of the created rather than the Creator. But just because that’s the way it is, doesn’t mean we have to continue viewing it that way.
As Christians, there is a redeeming light to these otherwise ego-filled competitions.
Our bodies have been finely crafted by a God who knew what He was doing. A God who has designed His creation to jump, swim, throw, run, flip, and tumble. Why should we not glorify God by displaying the brilliance of His design? Why should we not showcase bodies that have been pushed to their limit, and athletes who amaze us with the jaw-dropping strength, agility, and speed of the physical shells that they’ve been given.
There are very few athletes who have been given the incredible opportunity of competing on a world stage; very few of individuals can call themselves “Olympians.” But there are Christians competing in these games: brothers and sisters in Christ who have the brave job of letting their faith shine before the nations.
Because it doesn’t matter what we do, as long as we do it for the glory of God.
For the duration of the games, we’re given a brief taste of togetherness over common ground and an illusion of global unity. The entire world gathers together to cheer one another on. Around the earth, people of every tongue and nation spend time focusing on one giant event.
This is the essence of why I love these games so much.
Because with a rather large stretch of imagination, the games give me a microscopic glimpse into what it will look like when men and women from every corner of the earth stand together to worship not man, but the living God. A time when we all gather together to kneel together before the throne, united completely and wholeheartedly in Christ. That’s a beautiful thing to long for.
So for the next week, you’ll probably find me staring at the live-streamed competition on my computer screen. I’ll be the one cheering for individuals from around the world and praising God for the magnificence of His creation.
What do you think of the Olympics?