The Olympic Games wrapped up recently with the closing ceremonies. The Paralympics begin August 24th barring any COVID issues. Athletes from around the world have spent years training for the events of the XXXII Olympiad. Initially scheduled for 2020, COVID-19 pushed the games to 2021. This gave athletes an extra year of preparation but with all the pandemic closures and regulations most athletes experienced a frustrating time practicing. But the moment arrived in Tokyo for the games to begin and so far the athletic competitions have proceeded fairly well.
I have found that “Olympic Fever” has not grabbed hold of me as in previous Olympiads. I have not paid that much attention to the games nor sat in front of the television to watch much of the competitions. From the interviews I have read and heard, most athletes are grateful to compete but have found it’s not the same without crowds cheering and family in attendance.
The dictionary defines an athlete as one who is trained or skilled in exercise, sports, or games requiring strength, agility, or stamina. The word athlete comes from the Greek word athleho, meaning to engage in competition. Many think that the ancient Olympic Games began in the year 776 BC, when Koroibos, a cook from the nearby city of Elis, won the stadion race, a foot race on a 600 feet long track in Olympia, Greece.
In the Bible Paul writes to his young friend Timothy, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” This is in reference to be faithful in the work that one does in life. For Timothy that meant living and leading as a pastor to a congregation of people. For the participants of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, that means participating by the rules of the sport. You are not competing properly if you don’t adhere to the regulations. One only needs remember Canadian Ben Johnson in 1988.
Each of us lives many roles in various vocations in our families, communities, and world. As athletes we all should be faithful to tenets of the responsibilities into which we are placed. Sadly, many today desire to establish their own directives for life and neglect any communal or divine instructions. The modern mantra is to be true to yourself at the expense of anyone else. This is essentially anarchy, a denial of any authority or established order. Humanity needs systems to give guidance to the functions we are called to perform, just as athletes need rules to compete fairly.
The overarching question becomes, whose rules or what rules should guide us? The International Olympic Committee sets the rules for the athletes competing in the Olympic Games. Who determines regulations for society? Not an easy answer. Christians would promote the Bible as laying out the directives. Others have different opinions. But we must have something guiding our roles and responsibilities.
The Book of Hebrews records, “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.” The early Christians accepted the sacred writings of the prophets and the apostles as the decrees by which to live. By doing so they had to go through athlesis. This word is related to engaging in competition. Many were put into arenas, not to compete in games, but to fight for their lives against wild animals and gladiators because of the regulations they believed directed life.
It is not all that easy to fulfill the vocations of our lives. It can be compared to an athletic competition. If we would fulfill our roles adequately it will take strength, agility, and stamina. Those who win the prize, who desire to do the best they can, will take the time to train and prepare. It will be worth the effort. Don’t just drift through life but make something of it. Consider these words of St. Paul, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Live your life as an athlete. It is worth it.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.