Blades of Glory and Shame

Perhaps the highlight of the Olympics last summer for me was the performance of the somewhat mythical “Blade Runner” Oscar Pestorius. A double amputee fitted with synthetic blades proved a tough opponent for the the first heat of the 400 meters. He didn’t make it to the finals but he made South Africans everywhere proud as he competed and beat two full-legged athletes. He made his fellow competitors proud as one winner exchanged numbers with him. The whole experience of watching this unfold made you simply proud to be a human. Animals don’t usually do this sort of thing.

We were mesmerized by what training, dedication and science/technology could accomplish. We saw a glimpse of what the Psalmist marveled at in Psalm 8.

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Dominion. Rule. Taking the chaos of amputated legs and bringing through the creation of prosthetics that grip the track just right. Honor and Glory. How people honored this man. How we cheered for him. What a success story.

Then last week he is arrested for murdering his girlfriend. From high to the lowest of lows, taking another life, robbing it of the dignity endowed by God. Removing the crown of glory and honor through anger and violence.

These verses are also true of Oscar. It is really true of all of us, though by God’s grace we don’t fully express our anger in such ways.

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.” 

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

A few thoughts:

1.) People are always capable of doing this. I feel betrayed. How could the one who performed with such grace, and was shown grace by other athletes, display such malice? How could he display wrath instead of grace? Because that’s what sinful people are capable of doing, no matter how nice they appear. God’s common grace often keeps people from being doing what they are capable of doing. But this verse still reminds us that Pascal’s greatness and wretchedness principle is spot on.

2.)  We are all capable of doing this, so let’s deal with our anger NOW. I don’t know what anger issues Oscar had. I don’t know if folks called him “Oscar the Grouch” (probably Sesame Street wasn’t big in South Africa). But we do know he had issues and allegedly there were incidents. Maybe I have anger fresh on the brain since my sermon a week ago, but this is a good reminder of what we are all capable of doing. I’m sure most people who shoot their spouses/girlfriends probably would have at one time said, “I’d never do something like that.” I’m sure most people who love them would would likewise say, “He/she is not capable of doing such a thing.” Well since both beliefs have been proven wrong time and time again, why not change the belief? Why not consider that we are capable of great evil? Why not instead begin to deal with all anger now?

3.) Esteem the ordinary people around you. I admit I have elevated athletes, particularly Christian athletes before. Not all athletes will let you down like Oscar, but I would dare say many would do so, and do so quite often if we really knew them. Just like your normal relationships. But what if we began to esteem our normal friendships like we do our celebrities, heroes, athletes? What if we considered looking at them through the lens of Psalm 8? That God has crowned them with glory and honor. How might that transform our relationships? I’m pretty sure they’d appreciate it and I’m pretty sure that kind of thinking is consistent with Philippians 2:3 “….count others more important than yourselves…”

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