The Olympic Games originated as a festival to honor the Greek god Zeus. Over many centuries, it grew in popularity, adding events and competitors. The Olympics experienced a decline in quality and attention after the Roman Empire conquered Greece, but the games continued on until the 4th century.
In A.D. 393, Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, called for a ban on all “pagan” festivals, ending the ancient Olympic tradition after nearly 12 centuries.
Do you think Christians are called to discourage, avoid, or even outright ban festivals, holidays, or practices of other faiths? Why do you think this was done in the 4th century? Was it a good choice for that time?
The Modern Olympics
The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896, with the intention of promoting physical education. Since then, the Olympics have taken place every four years (in recent decades alternating the summer and winter Olympics), with the exception of the years during WWI and WWII – 1916, 1940, 1944). In the last 120 years, there have been numerous other conflicts and wars, yet the Olympics have gone ahead.
How do you imagine it feels for athletes to compete with rivals from countries with which their nation is engaged in conflict? Do you think the Olympics help promote peace, or are they just one more way for countries to compete?
Do you think the modern Olympics is pleasing to God? Why or why not? What Christian values does it reinforce? What Christian values does it oppose?
Christian Athletes: Does God Care if You Win?
Some athletes praise God for their success, equating their achievements with God’s blessing. Do you think winning, or success or achievement of any kind, is God’s blessing? If not, is it still appropriate to thank God for winning?
Other athletes (such as swimmer Maya DiRado) believe God doesn’t “care much” about their success in their sport. Instead, she thinks, “God cares about my soul and whether I’m bringing his love and mercy into the world. Can I be a loving, supportive teammate, and can I bless others around me in the same way God has been so generous with me?” Do you agree? What do you think God cares about in Rio?
Synchronized diving silver medalists David Boudia and Steele Johnson stated in an interview following their medal-winning dive, “my identity is in Christ.” Johnson said, “The fact that I was going into this event knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ and not what the result of this competition is just gave me peace.” Do you feel like you have an “identity in Christ?” Has that brought you peace in times of stress or pressure? Is it challenging to claim this identity over all our other identities?
Paralympian Jessica Long sees her path to the Olympics as a calling from God, saying, “I believe God had a plan for me to be adopted from Russia, to come to the United States and become a Paralympic swimmer. Part of his plan is for me to inspire people, whether they have a disability or not.” Do you think achievements like this can be part of God’s plan or a person’s vocational calling? Have you ever experienced something like this?
Ponder all these questions, and join us at the next Untapped Questions, Thursday, August 18, 7pm at Bagger Dave's!