Perhaps the most powerful part of the Olympics is the opening ceremony. And not just because of the elaborate staging and glittering pageantry of the show. The Sochi Olympics are reportedly the most expensive Games in history to date—with its opening ceremony expected to top the charts for money spent on the most elaborate spectacle ever produced.
The executive in charge of opening ceremony production shared openly about the years of planning and thousands of hours that have been dedicated to trying to create a perfect and flawless few moments as the whole world watches
While I appreciate “the show”, the most powerful and poignant moment for me is not the programming or even the lighting of the torch. For me it has always been that moment when the athletes themselves come marching in the stadium behind their flags—huge smiles on their faces and uncontained joy at the applause of the crowd. The camaraderie of athletes from around the world walking together—a fleeting moment where it seems as if the world chooses to lay aside its differences, its wars, its disputes, its sad histories and symbolically portray the joy that can come from unity.
In that ephemeral moment, these athletes have a universal reason to lay aside their individual passions, politics and allegiances for a greater good—a common ground in the celebration of sport that seems to bind them together in happiness and harmony.
While I know it is predominantly symbolic, I am still moved to see North Korea within eye view distance of athletes from the United States or Iranians in fairly close proximity to Israelis. I know the games will not change the animosities, deep political differences and real issues that nations and people of the world harbor. But for these athletes in the Olympic stadium and for those of us tuning in from around the world—we are treated to a brief utopian moment where peace seems possible and love of fellow humanity has found a tract of commutality.
As believers, we know that the ultimate restoration of God’s true intent for his creation will not come to pass until the eschaton, when our Lord makes all things right.
But Jesus prescribes that in the waiting—until Christ returns—we are to look back and remember Paradise lost and forward to the eternal bliss to come, and display for the world that we are His disciples by the love that we have for one another (John 13:35).
Perhaps in that decree lies the most powerful tool of evangelism—in the unity of the Church. Unlike the Olympics’ symbolic depiction of unity, the Church has an authentic unifier as we have been created in God’s image, made to display His love in action to all the world.
As I spend much of my time working with global networks such as the Lausanne Movement, Empowered 21 and the WEA– our “I have a dream” moment is to see the global church come together in unity. Not only so we can coordinate our efforts, collaborate and work side by side to be effective in our endeavors, but to fulfill the command of Christ as we demonstrate our unity as the Church.
It is a challenge to get the global church to work together harmoniously, but when we do it is a shining moment. And these shining moments—like the athletes circling the track—bring Glory to God as we see the best of Christian character displayed to a world that needs to see and hear and cheer about the sweetness of a loving community that is striving to love the Lord our God with all our hearts as we love our neighbors—both locally and globally—as ourselves. In Unity.
“Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose,” Phil. 2:2