Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympics Vs. Church

First of all, I should admit that Aubrey and I are total Olympic junkies. We love them. In fact, in July 2008, after four years of not having TV, Aubrey and I finally got cable TV so we could watch the Summer Games. Now this week our evenings are going to feel strangely empty after two straight weeks of watching every Olympic event possible.

I love the competition, I love seeing exotic small market sports get their 15 minutes of fame, and naturally I love watching the wild wipe-outs. But one thing I don't like is the overly emotional drama inserted by the commentators. Granted, the competitions themselves are indeed quite dramatic, and the excitement of representing your country must be quite a thrill. So I let the competitive drama slide. The worst part by far is in the opening and closing ceremonies.

The bookend ceremonies inevitably contain an over-abundance of talking heads opining on the worth, the value, and the significance of the Olympics. They bring people together. They transcend national identities. Or as John Furlong put it, "As the Olympic cauldron is lit, the unique magic of the Olympic Games will be released upon us. Magic so rare that it cannot be controlled by borders. The kind of magic that invades the human heart touching people of all cultures and beliefs. Magic that calls for the best that human beings have to offer."

Bleah. Besides being overly sappy, its also seriously misguided. Such Olympic rhetoric borders on idolatrous. The Games are portrayed as the one final hope of humanity, the one thing that can bring us all together despite our cultural differences. The one thing that above all else displays the wisdom and glory of all mankind.

Unfortunately for the Olympics, the position of "one final hope of humanity" has already been filled, and we are no longer taking applicants.

Moreover, in Ephesians, Paul describes the church in a nearly unbelievable way. His train of thought goes like this: the mystery of the gospel is that through Christ both Jews and Gentiles (the nations) have peace with God and are one body; his calling is to preach to the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ; (here's the important part) SO THAT through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph. 3:10)

God is at work bringing together all of humanity into one body, not through sport, but through the proclamation of the gospel of Christ. And the church, with its diversity of membership (people from every nation, tongue, tribe, etc.) is a sign to the entire universe, showing of the manifold wisdom of God.

The 'rulers and authorities in the heavenly places' are the evil spiritual beings (fallen angels, demons). And God is showing off the magnitude of his divine wisdom in front of them. How? Through the Church!! (I'm not making this up, read Eph. 3:10)

The Church is far more significant than the Olympics!

The Olympics happen once every four years as a sign of our general desire for international harmony (to say nothing of our complete inability to achieve it). The church gathers every week, as a sign to the entire universe that God has already made peace, man with God, and so man with his neighbor. As people from every nation come together every week in the midst of our differences, sin, prejudice and general disagreeableness, we worship One God, through One Savior, in One Body, holding to One faith and One hope.

This is good news. This is the manifold wisdom of God. This, indeed, is the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

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