I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympics – it’s pretty hard not to be, isn’t it? Last night, the opening ceremonies were broadcast from Beijing, China, a country I honestly do not know enough about. What a spectacular performance. If you didn’t see it, check out the Olympics on NBC online. If you’re using Vista, check out this great service.
Beyond the incredible technology, artistry, and creativity, what struck me most was the theme of this year’s Olympics: One Word, On Dream. While we were watching, I asked my wife, “Why can’t the world always be like this?” Athletes from Iran, Iraq, and North Korea all walked down same tunnel with athletes from America, France, and Great Britain, all while being welcomed warmly by the Chinese hosts. At the end of their march around the stadium, the athletes walked through different colors of paint, leaving a trail of color behind them as they walked across a giant canvas. So, by the end of the night, a giant painting emerged on the canvas, which was literally created by people from all around the world.
It was a vivid picture of harmony, a motif which weaved its way through the opening ceremonies. I watched the Chinese symbol for harmony appear over and over again in the artistic portion of the ceremonies, and I learned from the commentary that it is a pivotal concept for Chinese Confucianism. And then my mind began to wander back to my Christian worldview, in particular to our eschatological understanding of the world, a world that has been broken by sin in the past and present but hopes for redemption in the present and future. Redemption that we believe will come with the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ, redemption characterized by lions lying down with lambs (Is. 11:6), redemption which literally recreates creation in the form of the Kingdom of God.
As I watched people from across the globe, I believe I witnessed a manifestation of the Kingdom of God, a foretaste of what we hope for in the new creation. Put simply, I think the new creation will look a lot like the Olympics. In The Book of Revelation, John reports this vision:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…
So why isn’t the world always this way? Why is it that we can come together to celebrate sports, but we cannot come together to feed our starving, care for our sick, and empower our poor? Is the Kingdom of God something we can only hope for in the future? If the answer is yes, which I think it is for a lot of Christians, then we are in danger of resigning ourselves to the way things are, to the status quo. On the other hand, what if the Kingdom of God has already broken into history in Jesus Christ, and what if his disciples are called to live in that kingdom, expanding its borders to include outsiders? What would the world look like then?