Life is a contest; sink or swim, succeed or fail, be rewarded or lose out.
If you are not aborted, you have a chance. If you are born in America, you have a chance. If you are born to loving, supportive parents, you have a chance. Not everyone is.
At least in our day and age we no longer have to be on the lookout for saber-toothed tigers, deadly raptors and other dinosaurs. Today most of our dangers come instead from mankind and its machinations. So yes, sometimes staying alive is a contest that requires focus and concentration.
The world has been watching the 31st Olympics this past week, and rarely has focus and concentration been more on display. 31-year-old Michael Phelps winning 22 Olympic medals; Simone Manuel celebrated as the first black person to win an Olympic swimming gold medal, followed by a host of exciting stories of Olympic medal wins.
Unlike the other competition that has dominated the world-wide news media this past year – no, not the American political campaigns – the war against terrorism, we have witnessed many poignant moments where battling teams switched in an instant from intense competitors to hugging, hand-shaking congratulatory fans of the winners.
Maybe it’s just the sports environment that encourages such clean, healthy competition without the base, go-for-the-jugular attacks. No revenge, no vengeance. As veteran volleyball champ Kerry Walsh Jennings and her partner battled the Italians for the gold medal, the TV cameras zoomed in on Walsh Jennings left hand, where she had written the word “JOY” to remind her why she played so hard to win. Competition, yes, but not for blood. And winners were congratulated and celebrated, not plotted against sniped at.
Sports does seem to bring out the best in human beings.
A Little League baseball game comes to mind, where the boys from Warner Robbins, Ga., defeated a team of young boys from Japan. Even as the winners jumped about with back-slapping congratulations, they noticed that the Japanese boys had broken down in tears. Without a word the victory celebration stopped and the winning team moved to console the losers.
Said pitcher Kendall Scott, “I just hated to see them cry, and I just wanted to let them know that I care. Youthful sportsmanship at its best.
Some may remember a similar moment that was caught on video at a Special Olympics race a few years ago. As the mentally and physically challenged children raced down their lanes, one boy stumbled and went down. One girl stopped, turned around and went back to help him. The others, as they approached the finish line, stopped, turned and went back to boy being helped to his feet. All together, they crossed the finished line, winners all.
Heartwarming moments all, but pointing out that sports – even at its best – is an imperfect metaphor for Christianity. For in sports, someone always loses. But when someone is won to Christ, the only loser is Satan.
The difference is that for Christians, true teamwork is not about defeating someone, it’s about making them part of the team, God’s own team.