by Christie Masters
Whether expressing their faith by giving honor to God, declaring their identity to be in Christ, or in sacrificing their chances of winning to do what is compassionate and honorable, we can find a much needed inspiration in many of the athletes competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics. It has been a blessing to catch these moments interspersed throughout the Olympic events, and they powerfully overshadow the negatives. Public declarations of faith, and public displays of not only good sportsmanship, but self-sacrifice, have brought attention to the power of faith and how it strengthens us.
In a world that is burdened by the persecution of Christians and the destruction of cultures, by the flippant dismissal of precious life by social activists, the demonstrations of rage by a morally confused generation and the corruption and dishonesty of public figures, the clear and true declarations of these athletes brings our hearts and minds to attention. Let’s focus on the small but mighty, simple but profoundly powerful, acts of honor and kindness that revive our hope.
When David Boudia and Steele Johnson, both synchronized platform divers for the United States, won the silver medal, they declared “We both know our identity is in Christ.” Even if this particular phrase is unfamiliar in some religious faiths, giving honor to something or someone higher than oneself brings a humble perspective to the world that we can all admire. So much of the rhetoric of today finds its beginning and end in “Self” and our personal desires and accomplishments are a motivating principle in everything from consumer goods to political agendas. Boudia and Johnson’s statement said so much more than winning ever could; within those words they declared that their worth was not found in a hard-won medal, but in something higher than anything the world can offer; and this translates to the intrinsic value of all human beings. We are to be treasured, whether those of the most humble circumstances, or those of the powerful elite, because of a moral law and love that is above us all.
It was an inspiring moment when Abbey D’Agostino of the Unites States collided with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, and instead of running on ahead, helped Hamblin to her feet, finishing the race together. It was God, D’Agostino said, that “prepared her heart” to stay with Hamblin to the end. It was a moment in time, a simple yet instinctual choice to stay behind and help someone who was hurting, but it was also viewed in real time all over the world. What a wonderful expression of kindness displayed to hurting people everywhere. Abbey D’Agostino showed us that instinctive actions do not have to be simply carrying out the “survival of the fittest,” but are truly an expression of what is inside of us. If faith, kindness and love have been cultivated and nurtured, then instinctual action will be a manifestation of them. This event inspired me to question what it is that I am cultivating within my own heart. Whatever it is, whether bitterness and anger or compassion and love, it will find an irrepressible outlet in my quick decisions and automatic responses.
You probably witnessed, just as I did, when Jamaica’s Usain Bolt paused an interview about his success to show honor to the American National Anthem. He not only stopped speaking but invited the reporter to join him in silently showing respect as it played. In glaring contrast, our local youth baseball league has recently decided to stop playing the national anthem before games. My husband and I were further encouraged as we watched Usain Bolt that we needed to petition that the playing of our National Anthem be restored so the youth in our community are given the opportunity to recognize what it stands for. It also inspired a discussion in our family about showing respect to the flags and anthems of other countries, recognizing that the good to be found in any nation has come with the bravery and sacrifice of her people. Mr. Bolt’s decision in that moment to show respect and honor for others, gave us an example of how one brief moment can reveal not just a greatness of ability, but of spirit.
There are so many more examples in the 2016 Summer Olympics by athletes from all over the world, acknowledging and displaying their faith. Athletes such as Simone Biles, who because of loving grandparents, became not only one of the best gymnasts in the world, but a young woman who knows where her strength truly comes from; her personal faith in God. These young people are taking a stand for truth and love in a world that is bent on distorting both. They inspire me to carry on their example. Let’s cultivate faith and virtue within ourselves and our children, respect and honor the good in others, treasure each and every life, and boldly speak the truth in love; in doing so we can become game-changers, world-changers.