Humans in disguise
Champions of every stripe are still mere mortals
Now is a season of honesty and reprisal in the world of sports.
The blowback to cyclist Lance Armstrong’s admission of unethically augmenting his already profound physical gifts happened before his comments even aired Jan. 17.
His unprecedented seven Tour de France titles were vacated. His Olympic medal from 2000 was stripped. The name of his ubiquitous charity, “Livestrong,” was peeled off a Kansas City soccer stadium, and so many yellow bracelets suddenly didn’t mean quite so much. He beat cancer but probably won’t beat this.
On this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot — featuring the greatest stars of a generation — voters couldn’t find a single living player to induct on Jan. 9.
Needing 75 percent affirmation to enter Cooperstown, steroid-tainted career home run leader Barry Bonds and hard-throwing strikeout rocket Roger Clemens barely crested one-third of voters’ consciences. Both deny using banned performance-enhancing substances, but widely held suspicions are based on more than mere talk.
In both cases, those who once basked in adulation now bow under the weight of scorn.
We demand honesty in those we worship, because our investment is so great. Genetic predisposition varies so widely that the only way to confirm we come from the same species is to mandate a level playing field. Elite athletes can inspire us only if their successes aren’t measured by the syringe.
Major accomplishments build pedestals for those we look up to. But ill-gotten gains, when revealed, bring idols crashing down.
Like sports, the church has its heroes. We vault our clergy, theologians and authors to a higher standard. Like athletes, sometimes they fall. Besmirched televangelist piety makes a juicy tale. But pedestals exist even in the Anabaptist realm, where downfalls crash just as hard, if not harder. Weak moments and embarrassing revelations can make even obituaries an awkward endeavor. Though wounds heal, scars remain.
The belt of truth in Eph. 6:14 is a delicate thing. If stretched to the breaking point, it can no longer do its job, and one gets caught with one’s pants down.
Honesty and reckoning go hand-in-hand. One without the other is empty. However, Christian reckoning includes the healing power of forgiveness.
True Christian love “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:6-7). When truth is scarce, the victims are always many, never few.
Our champions, athletic or theologic, are just humans in disguise. It’s something to keep in mind during both the ups and the downs.
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