As the summer Olympics come to a close, I must admit to a somewhat daily ritual these past few weeks – checking the medal count. For some inbred patriotic reason, I find myself wanting to make sure that the good ole’ USofA finds itself at the top of the leaderboard showing our mastery of sport with a dominance on the world stage. Alas, no thanks to me, it would seem that my hopes will be realized with (at the writing of this column) the USA in a comfortable position to take home not only the most medals, but also the most gold. But what this really means is much harder to interpret beyond the multiple renditions of the National Anthem. Does it really mean that our athletes are better than all the rest?
It is really beyond my pay grade to pursue that question any further than posing it here. I have no keen insights into international athletic competition. I pose it more in relation to this Sunday’s Gospel where some great prize is promised us, the salvation that will endure far longer than the gold of any Olympic medal. The question posed in Luke is similar in that it asks who is good enough to be saved. Who has achieved at the highest levels to be heralded in to heavenly glory amidst waving flags and bold anthems? I am sure that all of us “want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in”, but what are the markers that point to that leaderboard?
For many, the acts of charity that are the hallmark of the Christian form the cornerstone of the answer. Do I do the things that are required of the Christian, much the same way that Olympians do the things that are required of athletes at that level? But Luke 13 suggest that there is a foundation that first must be addressed without which we can probably forget “looking Christian”. Jesus primary question is simple: Do I know you? Coming to know Jesus is the challenge laid before us if we are ever to be open to doing what Christians do and therefore welcomed into the kingdom. And yet, too often, we get focused on the medal count – show me what you have done.
As the Olympic fanfare ends and the athletes return home, many of them will forever be able to say “I am an Olympic medalist” which will certainly be impressive for years to come. However, the real hope for their future and ours is more centered in not who we are, but who Christ is. I pray daily to be more concerned with knowing him, than trusting my own abilities to get me onto the eternal platform.
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