The Olympics are indisputably amazing. Some of you have blocked off huge amounts of time so as to miss as little as possible. Others, like myself, hadn’t planned on watching much, but couldn’t stop watching. (We tried to turn off the TV when men’s gymnastics came on, but couldn’t bring ourselves to do it—so amazing!)
It’s not hard to justify the Olympics’ awesomeness. Unbelievable feats of strength, spectacular shows of grace, combinations of strength and grace that simultaneously horrify and inspire me. We see the drive of competition and the beauty of teamwork. We see tears of joy as years of sacrifice pay off and tears of disbelief as dreams slip down the drain in a thousandth of a second.
As I have been watching the Olympics, I find myself invariable rooting for the Americans. That’s natural, I suppose, but I don’t give any thought to the abilities of any of the contestants, their stories, or their beliefs. If this sprinter is American, she’s my girl.
But then I had a moment of clarity. How cool is it that 200 nations all got on board for a single event? How amazing that people from such diverse backgrounds, with so little in common, with so many reasons why they shouldn’t be interacting with one another, all gather in the same city with a common purpose?
The Olympics are so colorful (though seldom in the humorous sense). Think of all the shades of skin tone in London right now. Think of all the colors in the uniforms and flags. Think of all the cultures and languages struggling to interact and communicate.
We can look at the Olympics as athletes deadlocked in heated competition. Or we can look at them as God’s children gathering together to play. They bring some of the best of God’s physical gifts, carefully honed through years of training, and gather with the rest of God’s children to demonstrate just how amazing God made people to be.
Of course, the Olympics also reveal a lot of idolatry as athletes who have neglected everything for the sake of their own glory stand atop pedestals and are all but worshiped. But not every Olympian is like this (I think of the daughter of my Greek professor, Allyson Felix, who genuinely gave glory to God after taking gold in the 200m). And as Christians we can see God glorified in the Olympics because we know that every ability these athletes have was hand-picked and delivered to them from God himself.
We can also see the Olympics as a signpost of things to come. Look at so much of the world joined together in celebration, and understand that this pales in comparison to where history is headed. Ultimately, every knee on earth will bow before the King. At the end of all things we will be joined together as representatives from every nation, every skin color, every language, and every culture join together to praise not humanity, but the Maker of humanity. There, in what will be a sort of Closing Ceremonies and Opening Ceremonies all wrapped into one, humanity will join together to give glory to the only One who truly deserves it.