I really enjoy watching the Summer Olympic Games. Participating in several summers of competitive swimming has turned my family and I into full-time Olympic swimming watchers, but I also really enjoy gymnastics, diving, and track and field. The stories that come with every Olympic games are filled with hard work, dedication, and personal sacrifice and it is thrilling to watch these amazing athletes achieve their goals.
There is always something else that comes with the Olympics: Every year there is a scandal, a piece of drama that everyone is ready to sink their teeth into and parade around the whole world. No matter how much you try to ignore it, there always seems to be some type of black cloud hovering over the Olympic Games. Some years there is political drama within the host country, other years there is a scandal over environmental concerns, and some years there are charges of cheating. Unfortunately, since we live in a world that is perpetually tainted by sin, we can never escape scandals and drama, and this fact holds just as true for the Olympics as it does for everyday life.
This year, one of the larger scandals that appeared on the Olympics’ global stage was the entrance of over 150 Russian athletes who were originally suspended because of the mass use of performance-enhancing drugs. Several of these athletes had not passed drug tests just a few months prior to the games, and were only admitted to the games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) a few days prior to the start of the games. As the Russian athletes entered the stadium in Rio de Janeiro, many members of the audience booed because they did not think it was fair for these athletes to be competing. Many of the athletes were angry and frustrated as well, saying it was not fair for the IOC to let the Russians compete while everyone else followed the rules.
God does not deal fairly either. It can be so tempting to look around on Sunday morning and wonder how certain people end up in church. “Oh look, the Martins are here. It must only be because their family is in town.” “I bet they’ll only show up until their kids are confirmed.” “I know that Mr. _____ goes drinking on the weekends.” We can spend our time pouting about why God lets certain people into His church and never spend a moment thinking about how we, the whining, pouting, and disagreeable sinners, also have no business being allowed into the presence of the Almighty God. God does not play fair, and it is a GOOD thing. If God dealt fairly with us and our sins, we would be damned to hell on the spot and never allowed even a glimpse of heaven.
Like the Russian athletes who should probably not have been allowed to compete, we, too, should not have been allowed access to God and His grace. We only do through the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins. He is the reason we can enter church on Sunday morning. He is the reason we can come to the Lord’s Table and receive the forgiveness of sins by eating and drinking His very Body and Blood. We could never work hard enough to achieve this on our own—not even to achieve 0.000001% of our own salvation. It all comes from Christ and we have done nothing to deserve it. Thankfully, God has chosen mercy over fairness.
Monica Berndt is a member at Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle, Washington. She attends the University of Washington where she studies choral music and history.