I expect that many of you will have enjoyed watching the amazing sporting spectacle of the Olympics and Paralympics. There are some incredible stories of courage, determination and sheer athletic prowess that have come out of both festivals of international sport. It is hard to choose one highlight but it was pretty amazing to find that the gold medal winner and three other athletes who competed in the visually impaired T13 1500m Paralympic event all finished with quicker times than the gold medal winner in the Olympics a few weeks earlier. Even allowing for the fact that the Olympic 1500 m race is a tactical event and was completed much slower than the world record pace which has stood since 1998 it is a remarkable achievement.
The Paralympics movement has made a profound difference in the way that we view disability and encourages us all to focus more on what can be achieved by those who are differently able rather than their limitations. Yet the fact remains that in each event only the top three athletes get a medal and only one is crowned Olympic or Paralympic champion.
The modern Olympic Games draw their inspiration from the Greco-Roman world where many cities had their games including the original Olympics held in Olympia. Rather than medals the prizes for the victors were olive leaf wreaths or crowns. It was these games that Paul had in mind when he wrote to his younger friend Timothy “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5).
Paul compares the concentrated efforts of an athlete with the commitment and dedication of a follower of Christ. Two chapters later he picks up on the theme again as he writes “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8). Unlike either the ancient or modern games however, Paul reveals that in the Christian life everyone gets to receive a crown. The Christian faith is the ultimate demonstration of equality and diversity. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, rich or poor, able bodied or disabled, educated or illiterate, male or female, or even which nationality you are from; the offer is the same. All can come to Christ, and if they do so in a humble, repentant manner can receive forgiveness. All who profess such faith in Christ can run the race of life confident that they too will one day wear the victor’s crown.
If you have not yet started this race of faith in Christ then I invite you to do so, knowing that God will accept you as you are. If you want to know how to get started, then pop along and speak to us sometime.