A Look Inside the Cup at Rio

A Look Inside the Cup at Rio

The world is preparing for Rio de Janeiro and the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Nothing in our world compares to the Olympics.

We love the stories of the Olympians, talking about an athlete we had never heard of as if we have followed their entire careers.

We love the competition, feasting on the tension a close game creates or the seconds of silence before the 100-meter final.

We love celebrating the virtues, morals, and values that are demonstrated throughout the games. The Olympic movement emphasizes the values of excellence, friendship, and respect, and “seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

In a world shrouded in pessimism, we feel inspired by the optimism the Olympics promote.

As we get closer to the beginning of this Olympiad, we can look to these elements with excitement and anticipation. But if we only focus on the idealistic and positive concepts the Olympics upholds, we will miss the whole story.

State of Unrest

This should be one the proudest moments in Brazil’s history, but the nation is in turmoil.

In May, Brazil’s Congress voted to begin the impeachment process for President Dilma Rousseff over accusations that she manipulated government accounts for political gain.

Closely tied to the political crisis, the Brazilian economy is struggling. Recently, The Wall Street Journal wrote that the Brazilian economy finds itself in “its worst crisis in generations.” With the situation is changing daily, the state of the nation remains in flux.

There are also concerns for the health of athletes and tourists. Brazil is still combating the Zika Virus, a mosquito transmitted virus that can cause serious birth defects in infants. While numerous groups are working to stop the spread of the disease, Zika continues to worry health officials.

Another health concern affects athletes who will be competing in open water sports (sailing, triathlon, marathon swimming). While the bid for the Rio Olympics included a commitment to clean the water in the host city, the water remains contaminated with bacteria and viruses that could cause a variety of health issues.

Dive Deeper
The Promise Rio Coudn't Keep

Brazil must also deal with major issues concerning poverty and crime. Body parts were recently found on the Copacabana beach in front of the beach volleyball arena.

Brazil is not the first nation to have issues surrounding the lead up to Olympic games; but when we step back and look at the issues surrounding the Olympics, the values promoted through the games aren’t necessarily reflected outside the arena in this nation.

A Clean Cup

Jesus had a problem with a person not practicing what they proclaimed. In Matthew 20, Jesus publicly denounces the Scribes and Pharisees for doing just that.

In Matthew 20:25-26 Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup so that the outside also may become clean” (NRSV).

For the Pharisees, and the other groups Jesus calls out, appearance was everything. They cared more about showing others their holiness and righteousness rather than worshipping God and doing right. When Jesus compares them to unclean dishes he questions their usefulness, because who wants to use a dirty cup?

This passage makes many who follow Jesus feel good. We love to agree with Jesus, shaking our fingers at the Pharisees, scribes, Olympic organizers in Brazil, and anyone who doesn't practice what they preach.

But how often do we focus on how clean the outside of our cup appears when the inside needs to be cleaned? Without thinking very hard we can probably come up with a situation where we placed our personal advancement ahead of the life Jesus calls us to live.

Where Do We Go from Here?

If we are going to live out the faith we profess, we cannot be satisfied with only keeping the outside of the cup clean.

When we focus on living a life centered on Christ’s love we keep our entire cup clean.

When we keep our friends and teammates accountable we help them in their walk with God.

And when we address the issues in and around sport, we see the games we love transformed into the life-giving opportunities they are meant to be.

Despite the setbacks present the Rio Olympics are not guaranteed to fail.

The ideals underpinning the Olympics have the potential to inspire us all once again.

Hopefully they can encourage and strengthen Brazil to deal with the challenges that lay ahead.

In a short while we will all celebrate the beginning of the Summer Olympics, and it is indeed something to celebrate.

But when we celebrate, let us not only focus on the outside of the cup, when the inside is in need of cleaning as well.