I got my wife back about a month ago. That is the same time the Olympics ended. She loves to watch the Olympics and this was our evenings for two whole weeks. Now, I too love the Olympics but I draw the line at rhythmic gymnastics. She watches all she can.
She is not alone as NBC issued an ad in the USA Today thanking everyone for making this Olympics the most watched event in American television history. What makes the Olympics so intriguing?
Every year, there are world championships where you can find many of the most popular events and athletes competing. Yet, these events do not garner half of the attention of the Olympics. My wife has never watched them and neither have I. The reason the Olympics are much more popular than the world championships is the fact that the athletes are not competing just for themselves but for their countries. Charles Barkley, a hall of fame NBA basketball star that played on the 1992 Dream Team, said that there was nothing like playing for his country. So, the connection to something bigger than the individual makes the Olympics compelling.
There is a longing everyone has for something larger than themselves. Lest you doubt, would you want to be accused of being a narcissist? One of the most popular recent movies, Iron Man, has Tony Stark take his self-serving talents and turn them into others-serving talents.
It is the call of Christ, the Christian life, which realizes this bigger-than-self ideal. This call is to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31, Matthew, 22:37-40, cf. Leviticus 19:18). Only when we are connected to Christ can we receive the power to make this others-serving love a reality.
There is nothing bigger than God, in any sense of the word bigger. Thus, to love Him is to be connected with something bigger than ourselves. It connects us to His love and His eternal plan of redemption. When Adam and Eve rebel (Genesis 3:6-7), He promises to make right what they have put wrong (Genesis 3:15). God even offers them animal skins to cover their nakedness which is a direct result of their rebellion (Genesis 3:21). The rest of the Bible is an unfolding of the promise of Genesis 3:15, that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the seed of the serpent.
This promise of ultimate victory finds its fulfillment in Christ, the seed of Eve, who crushes Satan and his minions. He wins the war by dying on the cross and rising again from the grave. In this act, the plan of God to redeem the world is ultimately displayed. The power of Jesus’ resurrection is the power that gets us out of narcissism and into loving our neighbor as ourselves.
We cannot be part of something bigger than God and He is concerned about us. He demonstrates this by sending Christ to die for us while we are rebellious. Taking hold of this truth by faith in Christ is the only way we can be a part something truly bigger. Everything else is self-love.
Loving God is the beginning of the call to living for something bigger than ourselves. Jesus says the second part is like the first: to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is how we tangibly participate in the larger mission of God. However, we will not practice others-love unless we are “ looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).” If Jesus were only concerned for his own wellbeing, safety, and comfort, then he would not be the Savior of the world. Yet because he took joy in the bigger picture of loving others, He died for our rebellion and rose again that we might have life.
How might this impact our lives? I can name a few. The first is what many refer to as “me and Jesus.” Too many times I have heard people say all they need is Jesus. This is true on its face. But as an excuse not to be part of a church (i.e. others-love) or otherwise live the life they want, it only short circuits their participation in God’s grand redemption. Another way is with our marriages. We have a cause outside of ourselves to join. Not only that, but we should see our spouses as someone to love and nourish, not fill our needs only. The last thing I will mention is for those that are not followers of Christ. If you feel empty or that you were meant for more, then talk to a Christian or find a Bible and read it. Christ wants to make you part of something bigger.
There is something in all of us looking for something more, something bigger. We don’t have to participate in the World Championships only. Christ is calling us to compete in the Olympics. In Christ we have this fulfilled. He has shown us the way. By trusting in Him alone, we are part of the biggest thing possible.