Monday, 24 March 2008

Faith in the Olympic flame

Apparently the passage of the Olympic flame through Greece was disrupted this morning by pro-Tibet protestors.

The torch is set to travel through twenty countries (including the UK); it will scale the heights of Mount Everest before travelling to Beijing for the Games themselves. I'd already been struck by how closely the passage of the flame this year seems to be tied to humanism and the ideas of human progression (in the name of citius, altius, fortius). But it's journey to Beijing seems doomed, as surely there will be many who want to protest for freer media in China and for the rights of Tibet.

Apparently Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee, responded with these words: "The [Olympic] torch is the link between all athletes and citizens of this world; between all of us who believe in Olympism and the virtue of sport. It has the force to unite humanity and to stand for harmony."

Nice sentiment, surely - but a flame changing the world? I don't think so. I'm a massive fan of the Olympics: I love the sport, I love the colour and, actually, I love the idea and spirit of the Olympics in its purest form. But to think that a flame can somehow reconcile, say, Tibetans and Han Chinese, is misguided. There's no way that a flame can unite humanity and stand for harmony as Mr Rogge hopes - even if it was to arrive in Beijing unhindered.

Far better to look to the cross. Paul wrote these words to the Ephesians, speaking about the hostility between Jews and Gentiles:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. [Ephesians 2:14-18]

I'm looking forward to the day when Tibetans and Han Chinese live in unity with each other. (I'm sure there are already congregations in the world where this is the case.) That reconciliation will made possible, not through the passage of a torch to the summit of Mount Everest, but through a man crucified on a Roman cross. As people are reconciled to God in Christ, we live his way. His way is humility, which says: you first, me second - and so we are reconciled to each other too. I can't wait for all of those who have been rescued to live in peace with each other; not just to watch some sport, but to live for eternity in harmony with each other.

No comments: