I accidently bumped into the Olympic torch last week. There was a happy queue of motorists smiling as the cavalcade of police cars, vans and busses passed by.
It was a different story on the M4 as a 32-mile tailback of irate commuters cursed the launch of the “Olympic Lanes” - a badly executed plan to supposedly help the athletes and their families arrive safely and smoothly into the Olympic village.
Chaos continued as some of the teams’ coaches, devoid of Sat Navs and experienced London drivers, took unconventional routes to Stratford. This was a problem almost prophetically foreseen by writers of the hit BBC comedy series Twenty Twelve. A case of sport imitating art.
Now further controversy has hit the headlines, as the Japanese world champion football team were forced to travel from Tokyo to Paris in economy class while their other (less successful) squad got to travel first class. The difference between the two teams: gender. The world champions are the women’s team, who travelled with the rest of the plebs while the rather average men’s team enjoyed the luxury of elite travel. It seems not just chivalry but equality is dead.
It is never an easy journey to get the Olympics. If the last leg of navigating London is fraught with problems, spare a thought for the other hurdles. Even the seemingly effortless Usain Bolt, who glides across the finish line smashing another world record while waving to the crowds, didn’t just cruise to the Olympics. He explains: “a lot of people say it looks so easy… before it gets to that point it means a sacrifice day in and day out… ” In a recent BBC documentary Bolt described the training process in a single word: “dying.”
Perhaps he was referring to the physical agony the athletes put their bodies through in order to get into shape. Perhaps it is the death of every other goal in life to focus on the single goal of winning.
The apostle Paul would have nodded. I think he was a track fan, as he often drew on an athletics metaphor to describe the Christian life and he makes reference in Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy to seeing the life of faith as a race worth running.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
The Bible consistently argues that the human race is not to a dead end. We were born to run. Not for medals, not for the adulation of the crowd, but to be torchbearers running home to God. We are being called heavenward and how we run our lives now is an indicator of who we run for. Like Usain Bolt put it, it involves dying. We are called to die to self to live for Christ.
Speaking of running, I am running out of time. With eight days to go before my ticketed event, I have failed to follow the advice to “Plan Your Journey” despite the many reminders by email and electronic motorway matrix signs. I must add this to my to-do list….
But more importantly, the Olympic shambles should remind us to check our spiritual journey. Are we just following our nose and hoping for the best, or are we following our Master, intentionally and resolutely pressing on toward the goal, the prize and the glory of our Lord and Saviour?
Dr Krish Kandiah, Executive Director, Churches in Mission, Evangelical Alliance