Notorious Cheaters in Sports August 19 2016

SOCIETY, SELFLESSNESS, AND THE SCRIPTURES

In the last blog we saw Paul’s sports analogies in I Corinthians 9:24-27 (“Run in such a way that you may win.”) and II Timothy 2:5 (“Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”) Paul alludes to the truth that athletes must strive and dedicate themselves (cheating is an easy way out).
Rules are the standard of conduct in a game, existing to keep the games fair. Rampant cheating would simply diminish the meaning of the games. Over the years, there also have been some notable efforts by some athletes to subvert the rules.

  • One of the most notorious of them was Lance Armstrong, the 7-time Tour de France cycling champion.  As a cancer survivor and advocate for good health and exercise, he had a stellar reputation until it was revealed that he had managed to hide the use of performance-enhancing drugs over many years.  His awards were stripped and his reputation suffered an immediate and dramatic reversal.
  • In baseball, there was a heart-warming story about the Bronx All-Stars. In the Little League World Series, they came in third until it was discovered that their premier pitcher was 14 years old (not the 12-year-old maximum age).  The boy’s father faced criminal charges. You can imagine what the other children went through.

We can understand what might motivate individuals or teams to thwart the rules:  the desire to win and impress, to gain fame and fortune.  We can see this from the ones who got caught. There are likely many more who have gotten away with it, but we may never know. However, playing by the rules and enforcing them is critical to the integrity of the game and to the reputations of the people involved.
The Scriptures are very consistent about honesty and fair play.  In addition to Paul’s analogies in the New Testament, the Mosaic Law itself stated that the people were to have “just balances, just weights” (Leviticus 19:36).  In other words, they were not to cheat or deceive the customer.  Four separate times in Proverbs (11:1, 16:11, 20:10 and 20:23) the Lord calls upon us to not to use “differing weights” or “false scales.”
We live in an increasingly secular world where the objective often is to take every advantage you can as long as you don’t get caught. It’s OK to break the rules. This is what motivated Lance Armstrong and others over the years to go to great lengths to conceal their cheating.  The fundamental problem is that they did not have a relationship with God (that we know of) to motivate them to compete honestly.  That said, no one, not even a notorious cheater, is beyond redemption. 
The truth is, there are many temptations to cheat, even for those of us who are Christians, and we’re not just talking about sports.  As believers we should:
give our employers an honest day’s work, even when our boss is not looking;
be honest on our taxes even if we think we won’t be audited;
be ready to confess when we have been dishonest. 
Notorious cheaters rarely confess their cheating by choice.  They will only do so when confronted by the facts; in other words, only after they have been caught. 
God says in Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth…”  It is a great hope that you don’t need to be rich or an international superstar to have a good reputation.  The opportunity to have a good name is available to the young and old, rich and poor, well educated and not.  For the believer, it comes from abiding by the rules, being consistently honest, and humbly serving others, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Christ.  As ambassadors of Christ, it is good to remember that our reputation impacts how those around us perceive the reputation of Christ.  May we take that responsibility, and privilege, seriously.
But what if you know that someone has taken advantage of your honesty and servant spirit? What should you, as a believer, do about that?  We’ll cover that question in the near future. 
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Steve Smith