Thinking About...The Winter Olympics

I’ve been thinking about the Winter Olympics. At the risk of alienating those of you who don’t follow sports I make back-to back sports-related posts. Although, in my defense, the Olympics are games not sports. There also is anecdotal evidence that the Olympics have wider appeal than traditional sports. In fact, that appeal got me thinking: What is it that makes the Olympics compelling?

Rarity

The first thing that the Olympics have going for them is that they only take place every four years. It’s basic economics: scarcity drives value. It drives interest. Guys, be honest for a second. If curling were on every weekend, would you watch? This is the same idea that motivates Disney to ‘lock away into the movie vault’ certain titles. If it’s rare then we’ll find it more valuable and more compelling.

Novelty

The Olympics--especially the Winter Olympics--offers exposure to sports (okay, games) that are novel. Such uniqueness raises questions for us:

  • What exactly is the difference between ice dancing and pairs figure skating?
  • What does all that brushing during curling actually accomplish?
  • What other sports might become awesomer if we added ‘cross’ to their names (like snowboard cross and ski cross)? Is luge-cross or bobsled cross a possibility? Because I definitely would watch.
  • Why don’t more Olympic sports follow the lead of biathlon and add riflery?

Its novelty is part of the split personality of the Olympics that at once intones an old established gravity (hence the voice-overs: “The Games of the 21st Olympiad”) but also presents bewildering new games (like remember when trampoline was a summer Olympic event?).

The Not Rare Gospel

These two factors that make the Olympics compelling are partly why the gospel is dismissed as not compelling. There is nothing rare about the gospel. Since Jesus’ death, his followers have proclaimed far and wide the freely available gospel of God’s love. The gospel is not a message that is limited to a rarified or select audience. It is good news announced to the whole world, to every tribe, nation, and tongue.

The Not Novel Gospel

There is also nothing new about the gospel. For the last two thousand years, the message of the gospel has been the same; for many, disappointingly the same. The gospel is the simple message of Jesus Christ crucified for broken people.

For millennia, people have tried to trick new ideas out of the Bible, to develop a more sophisticated understanding of God, to churn out new truth. As the apostle Paul warned his protégé Timothy: “People will have itching ears; they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

What is so compelling about the Winter Olympics is disappointingly absent in the gospel. But in considering the gospel we must see beyond rarity and novelty. The gospel may not be rare, but it is good. The gospel may not be novel, but it is, and always will be, good news.