Do you have Olympic fever?
No, I’m not talking about the Zika Virus, or catching something from Guanabara Bay. I’m talking about “Gotta watch it” fever.
I thought I was immune to the fever this time around, but I caught it after only a few minutes of watching.
There are a lot of storylines to follow beyond mosquitoes and toxic bays.
- Michael Phelps winning his 21st Gold Medal. I like this joke from Eric Bransteen: “If you drink your milk and smoke this blunt, one day you’ll win as many gold medals as Michael Phelps.” — a dad trying to inspire his kid. I have to admit, the Gold Medals and Marijuana combo crossed my mind.
- Gymnast Osksana Chusovitina is competing in her 7th Olympics. She is 41 years old! I saw her perform while sitting on my couch with a bowl of Air-popped popcorn in my lap.
Then there is this:
The Refugee Team. A group of 10 athletes, with no home, no flag, no national anthem. They share the common experience of being displaced.
Some fled wars, kidnappings and persecution.
Others’ homes were destroyed.
Some were separated from their families at a young age.
Some were caged and starved for losing competitions in their home nation.
Yusra Mardini is on the team. She’s a refugee from Syria.
Good thing. Because the motor on the flimsy dinghy she and 19 other refugees were using to escape stopped. The teenager dove into the water and helped pull the dinghy for over three hours to the Greek Island of Lesbos, saving all on board. No swimming competition she faces in Rio will compare with that act of endurance and bravery.
Speaking of her team of refugees, Yusra says, “We are still humans. We can do something. We can achieve.”
I wonder if she has been made to feel less than human.
That can happen. Maybe that’s why Exodus 23:9 admonished the Israelites and maybe us, “You shall not oppress a stranger (ger – an outsider, a resident who has no family or clan to look after him) for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).
The Bible’s charge is based on empathy. The Israelites had “walked a mile” in the immigrants’ shoes. “Since you know what it feels like to be a stranger, you must never abuse or oppress the stranger.”
The Israelites were to love the immigrant because Deuteronomy 10:18-19 says that the God they worship loves the immigrant.
If we love God, it makes sense that we love what/who He loves.
One more story from the Olympics is thought-provoking: The opening ceremony. Not Gisele Bundchen and her runway walk, but the comments by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach:
“We are living in a world of crises, mistrust, and uncertainty. Here is our answer: the 10,000 best athletes in the world, competing with each other, at the same time living peacefully together in one Olympic Village, sharing their meals and their emotions. In this Olympic world, we see that the values of our shared humanity are stronger than the forces which want to divide us.”
James describes a similar world in James 3:16, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” Sounds like “crises, mistrust, and uncertainty.”
The Olympic goal “…is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity?
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds” (James 3:17). Then he closes out with this powerful challenge: “You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor” (James 3:18 The Message).
Watching the Olympics, for me, goes beyond cheering for your team. And I cheer loudly!
It’s bigger. Much bigger.
It’s seeing that we are all basically the same. Same dreams. Same disappointments.
It’s seeing a universal desire for peace.
It’s seeing the path to peace is recognizing the dignity of all people, of each individual.