God's Kingdom without Borders

The Vine Institute

God's Kingdom without Borders

CITIZENS WITHOUT BORDERS So, How ’bout Them Olympic Athletes?!

Somehow the Olympic Games always leave me conflicted, and conversations I’ve had with other Christians (especially “world Christian” types) verify I’m not alone. To what extent–and here the sanctified cynics would add “if any”–do these proceedings glorify God? Do these Games qualify as kingdom business? Does God celebrate the gathering of the nations for peaceable competition, or does He perhaps see it as a resurgence of the Tower of Babel as we humans gather “so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Gen. 11:4)? Can one worship while competing? while spectating?
As I said, I’m torn. On the one hand, surely the Prince of Peace much prefers people of the nations to gather on playing fields rather than battlefields, to give their all in playing rather than in killing. Surely our Creator still pronounces a joyful, satisfied “It’s good!” over the fine-tuned, peak-trained bodies He has made as He sees them exhibiting their prowess. Don’t we invariably marvel at those breathtaking spectacles when a swimmer wins by a length or sets a new world record, or an equestrian jumper completes the course perfectly with power and agility in a glorious partnering of human-and-beast coordination, or a gymnast pulls off a set of flying, twisting, power and balance moves most of us virtually wouldn’t dream possible for the human body? And surely it’s no great stretch to offer, in view of these marvels, our worship–not worship of the human body but worship of the Creator of the body.
On the other hand, the ceremonies, the games and the gatherings all seem so very horizontal! Cultures gather in the city streets (of London, currently), parades happen with much flag-waving, nations pit themselves against other nations, ceremonies showcase humanistic achievements and “progress” with all that technological wizardry in which humanity takes so much pride…yata, yata….Now let’s all close by waving our cell phones and swaying sentimentally to “Imagine,” John Lennon’s popular hymn to a godless world we dream “will be as one.” Are we indeed worshiping anything but ourselves?
Multicultural Christian worship, I’ll argue, provides precisely the lens we need to reframe this issue and clear away the fog so a kingdom vision can emerge. When we worship, we look in the right direction–at the Holy One who fashioned our bodies and gave life to our spirits, rather than at our own navels; when we worship multiculturally, we can celebrate our oneness and our diversity as God’s gifts rather than as our self-congratulatory achievement. Then we can spectate in a way that rejoices equally whether it’s a Romanian, a Chinese, a Mexican, an American, or a (fill in the blank) who wins the gold, because God enables us to marvel at His amazing gifts no matter what colors they come in! And then competitors can compete in nondestructive ways, like former Olympian Eric Liddell (remember the film “Chariots of Fire”?) who ran for the joy of it and said “When I run I feel His pleasure.” Liddell lost or won with the same grace and humility toward his fellow competitors–all offered up in worship mode with gratitude to the One who redeems us body and soul.
Perhaps someone should write a countervailing hymn to Lennon’s “Imagine,” a hymn envisioning God’s assured future for the nations in the new heavens and earth where all creatures–even the competing ones–will humbly give Him the glory. As I asked on Facebook a week ago, what do you suppose the Olympic Games would look like in that divinely consummated world order?

I could go on and on, but won’t. What’s your take?

David Livingstone Rowe

Posted in Multicultural on 6 August 2012

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