I write in the midst of Simone Biles' gymnastic dominance, Michael Phelps' unthinkable number of medals (gold, at that), and Kohei Uchimura's earning of the Olympic men's gymnastics individual all-around gold medal, just as he did four years ago.
I also compose as men and women refugees compete as representatives of no country. They are the exiled ones. Athletes like Yusra Mardini and Popole Misenga swim, run, and display excellence in Judo. They, while not homeless, compete as men and women who live in foreign lands among foreign peoples, some of whom are glad to welcome them and others turning their backs. Asked about her Olympic experience thus far, Mardini said . . .
"It was really amazing and an incredible feeling to compete here in the Olympics and I am happy and glad for that . . . I'm really happy to be here and to see all of the champions and other swimmers here." (Alan Baldwin, Alaska Dispatch News, 07 Aug. 2016)
As I read her words and recalled the image of "homeless" athletes entering a packed stadium with the Olympic flag as their "nation's" symbol, I thought of another team of people in a land not their own. Followers of Christ.
1 Peter 2:11-12 (NIV)
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Hebrews 13:14 (NIV)
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
As Christians await arrival in our true home, we know of the joy to come. As we do so, however, we are to live . . . to live well.
We, like Mardini, need to appreciate the opportunity to live in an amazing place among people who strive to succeed using their God-given talents.
I share now some great words from Jesus and His early followers which offer guidance to us as we seek to live well in a land not our own.
Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"
Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:43-47 (NIV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"
Jude 21 (NIV)
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
And, in keeping with the Olympics theme . . .
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.