A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
Proverbs 22:1 NIV
Yesterday the XXXI Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro ended a 16-day celebration of athleticism and competition. While many of the images that will be remembered are about those who won silver and gold (as well as bronze), there are many moments that reveal deeper values that will be remembered for the good and the bad in the human spirit - reflections of the image of God stamped upon us.
Many of the memorable moments did not nclude medal winning performances, like the long distance runner who was unintentionally tripped and finished her race with one shoe. There were the two long distance runners that tripped and fell, helping each other up and finishing the race together (in last place); they were rewarded with a second opportunity to race. The speed walker who encouraged a fallen comrade to keep on the race, placing an encouraging hand on his shoulder, was himself elininated from medal contention by a questable act of another athlete. These images stick with us.
There were also negative images that reveal the destructive and selfish nature of the human spirit that lives far from the paths of God. Athletes who would not shake the hand of a victor because of his nationality or religious faith had no place at the games. Many who cheated or were part of a massive national cover-up over the use of banned substances were booed from the stands. The vandalism and drunken outrage of a small group was exposed as a lie. The sour tweets and name calling of a defeated athlete were quickly called out for what they revealed; a selfish, ego-centric, sore loser.
The way the first group of athletes treated one another is the difference between having a good name and an honourable reputation, and affects how they will be remembered.They will wake up today known for their goodness and will return home to their respective countries with their heads held high. For me these reveal the image of God and his goodness - this is the way we are intended to live.
The second group returns under the shadow of scandal and shame, having played out a drama in the biggest arena of their lives. They too will be known for their actions, and will carry the burden of dishonour. For me their legacy shows the far-reaching effects of a fallen nature and destructiveness of sin; once again it raised its ugly head and reveals the need for God in the lives of each person.
Our stage may not be the Olympic Games, but our lives will be judged by God and those around us. The author of the Proverbs hits the nail on its head when he says, "Even a child is known by its actions" (Prov. 20:11). Paul spoke of a race that we need to run with perseverance, competing according to the rules of life that God has set before us (Phil. 3:14 and II Tim. 2:5). And although it may cost us riches or fame, these actions do not go unnoticed by God, nor those who watch to see if the image of our Heavenly Father is of more value to us than silver or gold.