By Matthew Castro
I am a fan of the Olympic Games. However, the reason has little to do with the actually sports. I enjoy watching Michael Phelps swim in the Olympics, but I am not following his races throughout the year. The drama of gymnastics in the Olympics is intriguing. However, I do not discuss with my friends and family the results of weekly gymnastic events. The individual sports do not bring me to the television every night. The draw to the games is the peaceful and respectful competition between different nations for the highest prize.
One of the worst days in Olympic history is the hostage crisis at the Munich Games in 1972, when eight Palestinians killed two Israeli athletes and took nine hostage. All nine of the hostages were killed in the ensuing battle with German police. The Olympics is a time every two years, where enemies lay down their weapons and compete in peaceful games. War and hate are suspended, and nations unite under a banner of harmony.
The father of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, initiated the International Athletic Congress of Paris in 1894. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) constituted on June 23, 1894. The first modern Olympiad was held in Athens, Greece in 1896. The Olympic flag was introduced to the world by Pierre de Coubertin in Paris in 1914. The flag presented five interlaced rings, which represent the union of the five continents. Athletes from all five continents would come together for peaceful and respectful competition at the Olympic Games.
In the Olympic Charter, which provides governing structure to the IOC, seven fundamental principles of Olympicism are provided. Here are two of the seven principles:
The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
The charter sets the purpose of the games, which is harmony established among humanity and human dignity recognized by all.
The Olympic charter ignorantly promotes the testimony of the prophet Isaiah about the future of humanity. The prophet writes,
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshare, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:1-4).
A day approaches, when the nations shall come together in peace to worship their creator and Lord. Military weapons will be traded for farming tools. Universal peace will be realized in that day. Human dignity will be preserved for all without partiality.
The prophet Isaiah, however, writes of a day, which will be initiated partial through another event in history. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, inaugurated a new world order. A world, where peace, is certain and incorruptible. Human Dignity is understood and upheld.
The gospel of Jesus Christ has created a new society, which promotes harmony amongst all. The Olympics introduce values, which God’s Word establishes in the person of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the trending events in Rio, Brazil provide an excellent introduction to the implications of the gospel. The Olympics offer a context for discussing with friends, neighbors, and co-workers the biblical principles of peace, dignity, and rewards.
Peace is the original state of creation. Moses in Genesis 2 presents the Garden of Eden as the utopian home of God and man, where harmony amongst all is fully realized. However, when sin enter the world through Adam and Eve, death and war followed. Cain killed his brother Abel in Genesis 4. Moses writes about the history of the early days of man. He writes in Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Moses also chronicles the kings of the area surrounding the family of Abraham in Genesis 14. Several kings of city-states fought a war against one another in the Valley of Siddim. The peaceful existence of the garden was replaced with fear.
At the birth of Jesus, angels proclaimed to the shepherds in the field, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Jesus Christ, the son of God, has come bearing peace to a world of fear. Harmony among men is realized through the redemptive work of Jesus. The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . and might reconcile us to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:13-16). Peace has been established for all men with God and with each other through Christ.
Human dignity is cemented in scripture in Genesis 1. Moses records the words of God, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). God created man in his own image. The imago Dei is the foundational principle to the law against murder. God decreed in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). The worth of a man is established by the divine image which he reflects. All men and women possess the same image. Therefore, all without discrimination have dignity, which should be recognized and honored.
A reward or prize is clearly understood in the Olympics. “Go for the Gold,” is a common phrase used throughout the advertisement of the games. The Bible also communicates the giving of rewards as a result of Christ’s victorious work of redemption for believers. Paul writes in Colossians 3:24, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Colossians 3:24). Jesus has conquered sin and death. Paul writes, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). The gift of eternal life is rewarded to whoever trusts in the work of Christ. John writes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life is rewarded to the victorious of Christ.
The runner runs with perseverance to the finish line for the sake of the prize, which awaits him. James writes, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). In the Ancient Olympics, winners were crowned with a olive wreath. Followers of Jesus Christ wait with hope for the victor’s crown.
The Olympic games project profound gospel imagery. Believers, be encouraged to utilize the gold medal moments and the honorable sportsmanship displayed the next few week as an avenue for gospel witness. Speak boldly about the God, who established peace through Christ. Be hopeful for the future as the prophet Isaiah was for a better tomorrow, when the nations will be paraded before a holy God as his holy people.