An Olympic-Sized Problem


Like many Americans, my attention recently was on the Olympic Games. I heard a report that more workers were coming to work too tired to be productive, because they have been staying up late watching the events.

While most people watched the swimming events because of the amazing Michael Phelps, I noticed a different athlete. Kirsty Coventry represented the country of Zimbabwe in the Olympic Games. She brought home the first-ever swimming medal in the 2004 Olympics and this time she has won three silver medals and one gold. I saw her going home to Zimbabwe where she received a warm reception from the people.

However, she lives in Austin, Texas, according to her athlete profile. She attended Auburn University and then transferred to the University of Texas. She did not train or prepare herself for these games in Zimbabwe but was given her chance in the United States.

These Olympic Games continued to show the vast economic disparities present in the world. The wealthier countries won a greater number of medals. Could this be because they have more money to spend to train their athletes? Many of these athletes got a chance to compete because their families have the means to pay for them to train.

There are some preachers out there who would have you believe God's best for you includes gaining wealth. The "health and wealth gospel" ignores many of the teachings of the Bible and ignores much of the life of Jesus. Some would say that these countries, such as the United States and China, are rich because God is blessing them.

China showcased its wealth and prosperity during the games through the many amazing views and facilities. The United States is known around the world as an affluent country. Many policies in the world exalt the rich and push down the poor.

The church should be different from the world. The church should side with those who are marginalized and pushed down, as Jesus did. Jesus took time to eat with the tax collectors and sinners. We see Jesus healing the blind, touching the leper and feeding the 5,000. We hear Jesus visiting with the woman at the well and inviting the little children come near to him. Jesus reached out to those who were pushed down by the culture because of their economic means, their gender or their ethnicity.

Watching these Olympics, I was reminded that justice does not flow like a river in the world that we live. We need to be the hands and feet of Christ in a world that needs a message of grace, not a message that the rich are meant to dominate those who are poor.

Can I change the world so that this does not happen anymore? Probably not. I can, however, do my part to display the grace of God in my community. May we follow the Holy Spirit's guidance to lift up the message of grace in our communities and show the world a different perspective?

Paul K. Hood-Patterson is the ministry resident at First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Fla. The residency is a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's Initiative for Ministerial Excellence.

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Tags: Economy, Paul Hood-Patterson, Politics, Poverty, Theology