In the early part of this century Marion Jones burst onto the track and field scene shooting for five Olympic gold medals in Australia. She was charismatic, charming, and immensely talented… and now as we all know using performance-enhancing drugs. Most Americans are not like I am. I love to watch runnning events, I DVR events that are on television, I watch streaming video from the IAAF, but most Americans could not care less about track and field. During the Olympics it is different. Suddenly, runners who have had huge careers overseas, but have been virtually unknown in the US, suddenly become household names. It was no different in 2000 in Sydney. Jones became a media sensation, and the hopes of a nation were on her sholders. While she didn’t win five gold medals, she did win three golds, and two bronze medals, and walked a way from Sydney as somewhat of a hero.
That’s all changed now. She cheated, used drugs, and never won any of those medals legitimately. In fact, in the eyes of the record books she wasn’t even there. But mistakes go much deeper than that, because Jones is not the only person that will be punished. There will be innocent people punished as well. The women who competed in the relay races with her are now being asked to return their medals. Those who competed alongside her but fell short of the medal podium were robbed of their moment of victory, and even if they receive the medals they deserve… where is their podium stand? When do they get to hear their national anthems played? Of all these people the people I feel most sorry for are the clean athletes of today getting ready to compete in Beijing in 2008. The Allison Felixes, the Asafa Powells, the Tyson Gays… people you have probably not heard of yet, but will, now they have to contend with the speculation of their legitimacy as athletes… because of something that happened more than seven years ago.
Lest you feel like this has suddenly become a blog that was ripped off the Sports Illustrated editorial pages instead of one discussing spiritual realities, there is definitely a spiritual focus in view. One of my biggest struggles in understanding the Bible has been passages that talk about punishment for the sins of the father being visited upon the children and further generations. Cf. Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:6-7, Deuteronomy 5:9, and others. I was always conflicted about those passages. They’re unfair, unjust, and they don’t seem like they keep with the nature of God. But what I have found is that it is reality.
Let me explain. Sins are not independent. They don’t just effect the person commiting them, but have reprocussions that ripple out. For instance, a person whose father or mother was an angery alcoholic has to deal with the emotional, and sometimes physical scars of that sin. Even if that child determines not to drink as he/she will have to deal with the issues wrought by the sins of the parent, and if that child isn’t careful it will pass on certain sinful quailities to their children and so on. The Marion Jones situation illustrates that same principle. Jones wasn’t thinking about all the people that were being effected when she used the performance-enhancing drugs, she was only thinking of herself. But the ripple effect of that sin goes far beyond the individual.
The good news is that while sin’s effects can have rippling consequences here on earth, God promises to deliver those who run to him from eternal consequence and even to use the worst parts of people’s past…our own sin, the sins of our parents, and the hurts that have been done to us… to his glory-Romans 8:28-39. The key is we have to turn away from dealing with life our way, let him be the Lord of all of us.