I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to attend a “Special Olympics” games but for me these events are displays of pure athleticism. Thousands of athletes from all over the world participate in these venues and they are truly “in it to win it”. However, I’ve notice that “winning” has a particular meaning for most of these athletes. “Winning is often characterized by shouts of joy, hugs and lots of dancing whether you come in first or “almost first”. Being able to witness the ability, dedication and camaraderie of individuals often mislabeled as “disabled” is a life changing experience.
During the month of November, Puerto Rico celebrated its annual Special Olympics Games. Approximately 450 athletes from all over the island competed in fourteen different sports, ranging from track & field to rhythm gymnastics. When interviewed by the media outlets covering this event, Puerto Rico’s Special Olympics President, Mr. Jose Barea said the following:
“Some time people think that by organizing these events we are contributing our little grain of sand to the Puerto Rican society. But this is not about adding our little grains of sand. These games are the result of our commitment and dedication to social justice and inclusion for all individuals, specially those with intellectual disabilities.”-Jose Barea
In scripture we find several passages that utilize athletic metaphors to describe the Christian life, (Heb.12:1, Phil. 2:16, Gal. 2:2, 5:7, 2 Tim. 4:7). Perhaps my favorite athletic metaphors is the one found in 1 Corinthians 9:24:
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!”⎯ NIV
When it comes to our Christian life, we do not run for the sake of running. We run to win! However, we do not win this type of race by covering a distance faster than others. Our definition of winning is very similar to that of the Special Olympics athletes. We win when we open the doors of God’s reign to those who have been marginalized and excluded. Our “winning” is characterized by our joyful sharing of the good news with others, by embracing the destitutes and by lots of dancing in the midst of the world’s reproach. This is how we can assess whether or not we are being faithful to our Master, (Luke 4:18.)
When it comes to people with disabilities, we do what we do, not out of pity or mere compassion, but as a result of our commitment to the principles of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Like Special Olympic athletes, we are in it to win it! And we win by recognizing that “the parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary”, (1 Cor. 12:22).
So let us run with patience. But above all, let us run to win!!!!