There's just ten days until the Beijing Olympics kick off. I can't wait. I vaguely remember the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, but ever since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, I've loved the whole experience of the Olympics.
Four years ago, I even organised my summer around the Olympics, arranging to meet up with friends only on the days where there was little British interest in the events!
I still love the way in which all sorts of people get really enthusiastic about sports that they'd rarely give two hoots about. Remember how everyone suddenly became badminton experts in 2004 following the run of Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms to the Olympic final?
One of the areas, however, where I guess I've become more cynical is some of the rhetoric that accompanies the Games. Your average opening ceremony has endless eulogising about the way in which the Olympics will, apparently, unite humanity and demonstrate to the world all of the positive characteristics of what it means to be human. The Beijing Games is no different. The Games' strapline is 'One World One Dream', which 'reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit'.
Efforts to unite humanity have, of course, abounded. Islam seeks to do it (often by force) under a theocratic regime. Marxism sought to establish an intellectual unity amongst humanity. Now the Olympic Games claims that it can unite humanity through common experiences and a common set of values. With a heavy heart, however, I wonder in all realism the extent to which we'll see these 'universal values' over the coming weeks. It will be miraculous if there's no scandal, no failed drugs tests and no ungentlemanly conduct by the time the Games close in just over three weeks' time.
What struck me in Moldova whilst reading Ephesians 2:11-22 is the massive claim that Christ has united humanity - not by force, not with a common set of values - but through a new spiritual unity. Christians are now reconciled to God (in exactly the same way) and - therefore - reconciled to each other. Those things that make us distinct from each other give none of us a spiritual advantage over the other. We approach the cross in the same way, with our deepest needs met together in the same way.
It may not have had quite the same diversity of humanity as that which will be on display at the Olympics, but I saw something of the Ephesians 2 unity modelled whilst in Moldova. On the English team alone, we had incredible diversity - loud people, quiet people, extroverts, introverts, representatives from seven universities. There was also great theological diversity (at least seven demoninational backgrounds represented). Throw in the Moldovans and the Americans that work for CSC and you have a diverse team (pictured below), with nothing in common except Jesus. Yet we were united. We knew each other was family as soon as we met. And it was brilliant seeing individuals living out that family relationship in laying down their rights and prejudices in serving others first. I guess that's something that not even the Olympics can achieve.