The Olympics and Common Grace

Last night I sat on the couch and watched the bulk of the lengthy opening ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London with my wife. As I watched the spectacle unfold I was struck by something. In between the “oohs” and “aahs” and the occasional “huhs?” I found my mind returning again and again to the fact that it was a truly magnificent display of God’s common grace.

Common grace is essentially a belief that people of all stripes experience something of God’s blessings. One example of this in Scripture is seen in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5. Verses 44 and 45 say this: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Common grace means that both the honest farmer and the cheating farmer get to experience the blessing of rain. Common grace means that both the country that values religious liberty and the country that does not can experience Olympic success. Common grace means that people who might vehemently deny the existence of a Creator will compete in athletic competition with those who believe their abilities were given to them by God for His glory. Common grace means that God blesses those who might never know Him with the ability to craft an extravagant display of creativity such as the opening ceremonies.

The Olympics are one of those times when the common grace of God is seen vividly by hundreds of millions of people across the world. I can’t help but see the talent and spectacle and be amazed at the Creator who gifts people in such incredible ways. I also can’t help but look at the Olympics as maybe just a small and imperfect taste of what Christians are looking towards in the future. The Olympics see people from all races, all corners of the world, and nations both great and tiny gathered together in a display of unity under the banner of athletic competition and national pride that is unrivaled. Christians look forward to a day when all nations are gathered together in unity under the banner of glorifying Jesus in a restored creation. All nationalities will be represented. All nations will be represented. It won’t matter whether you came from a superpower or tiny island country that no one has ever heard of. There will be true unity as people from every tribe and every tongue praise their Creator.

So I will watch the Olympics. I will cheer on Team USA. Most importantly, I will smile as I see God’s common grace on display over and over again and I will look forward to a day in the future that will make the grand spectacle of the Olympics look like amateur hour.

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