Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mundine - The Man in all of us...

When I tuned in to Facebook last night I seriously thought Danny Geale had absolutely smashed Anthony Mundine in a 3rd round knockout... So many punters were rubbing salt into Mundine's wounds as their fingers did a victory dance on their keyboards that I has to quickly duck over to a news site to see the result... it turned out that Geale had only won on points and that up until the last round it was a pretty close fight.  Bemused I went back to Facebook only to see more and more "suck on that Mundine" type comments.

I don't know whether I can remember a time in Australian sport where so much hate-filled vitriol has been poured out on an Australian sports person.  I mean sure every now and then we have all got angry at an under performing sports star or quibbled about a poor selection in the Australian cricket team... I personally remember having not-so-kind-a-word with Greg Norman through my TV screen a couple of times... But this was different... For some reason Anthony Mundine has attracted malicious and scathing venom from the Australian public before, during and after this fight!

The reason for this hatred is Mundine's ego!  Anyone who calls themself "The Man" and claims to be Australia's greatest sporting star has a seriously deluded picture of himself.  There probably hasn't been a man who publicly over-inflates his self-image more than Anthony Mundine; and in a culture where we don't just cut down tall poppies but we get out the whipper-snipper and make sure we do a decent job of it, anyone who sticks their head up as high as Mundine is going to be a prime target.  The hatred Australia has felt towards "The Man" is due mainly to his own pride... We just can't stand the arrogance and self-absorbed delusion that Anthony Mundine has become infamous for.

However, we must ask ourselves the question: if it is so easy for us to spot, name and shame pride when it manifests itself in a guy like Anthony, how come we are so inept at spotting it in our own lives?  We are so quick to jump down the throat of overt self-promotion yet when we exhibit exactly the same self-absorbed behaviour, albeit in a much more subtle and socially acceptable manner, it doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

Augustine, a super old school teacher of the early church, called pride something like the mother of all sins.  What he meant by this was that an over-inflated  view of ourselves was the root cause of pretty much all our sinful behaviour... sin is selfishness and self-promotion... we use sin to elevate our reputations, influence, attractiveness and bank balances.  Think about it:

  • Why do we lie - generally because we value our own reputation (or whatever is at stake) more than the person we are lying to
  • Why do we envy - because deep down inside we feel that we are better than someone else and deserve to have whatever it is they have more than they do
  • Why do we fail to speak-up when we see oppression or bullying - because we believe that our sense of peace and comfort are more important than helping the oppressed
  • Why are we gluttonous, greedy and immoral - because we think they are they only things that will satisfy our cravings
  • Why are we self-righteous - because we are too proud to admit weaknesses and our desperate need for Jesus

There is no doubt that no matter how sin manifests itself in our lives that it is merely our pride screaming out trying to convince us and the world around us that "We are the greatest!"  We may not hire publicists to promote us, make bold claims about our greatness or come up with punchy catch phrases to cement our superiority, but there is a little bit of "The Man" in all of us.  A part of us that will always respond to preserve, protect and promote... well me!  If we were to be consistent we would be praying on all of our mistakes, misfortunes and failures so we can jump down our own throats with a sharp and sarcastic tone.  We have to face the harsh reality that our pride is every bit as ugly as that of Anthony Mundine.  

But the gospel is the least proud message in the universe.  It tells the story of the real "Man"... the One who could rightfully claim greatness without equal... and yet He did not hold onto His greatness or lord it over some bunch of minions.  Rather Jesus laid down His greatness and embrace weakness and nothingness in order that we might receive all the benefits of His awesomeness.  If anything typified the life of the only one who has any real claim to greatness it would be humility not pride, sacrifice not self-service.  And through this perfect humility He offers us forgiveness for sins and peace with God.  But you can't get it through pride!  In fact the only way to receive what the humble Jesus offers is through  humble acknowledgement of our desperate need for Jesus.

You may not think of yourself as proud and boastful like "The Man" Mundine, but left to our own devices our pride will grow into an abhorred beast of burden.  Lay it aside and repent of your pride-filled sin and receive the humble Jesus today!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lance Armstrong & the greatest tragedy of all

There are too many tragedies to be told in the sad story that is Lance Armstrong!  The betrayal of fans, sponsors, fellow competitors, his family… The fact he profited financially from his deception… The outright lies he told everyone… The charity he started now being on shaky ground… It doesn't matter which way you look at this story, there is pain, turmoil and tragedy! But perhaps one of the greatest tragedies won’t even rate a mention on the nightly news, Internet coverage or even the Oprah interview.

I think most people don’t realise how performance enhancing drugs actually work.  It is easy to get a picture in your head of some wonder drug, some magic pill that suddenly boosts performance and creates Tour de France champions!  However the reality is that they are not miracle drugs… they can't turn average hacks into champions... they only aid and boost the capacity of an athlete to train so that their eventual performance is enhanced…

So here  is the tragedy; Lance Armstrong still had to train ridiculously hard!  In fact it was widely publicised throughout his career that no one trained as hard as him.  Now in light of his recent confession I think we might be tempted into thinking that this was all a lie, that he wasn't really the super training machine that we came to believe he was.  But the reality is that it is more than likely that he was a super training machine... you don't take a few drugs then nek minnit get on a bike and ride up and down french mountains.  Lance Armstrong probably rode more miles on his bike in one year of training than all the commentators, bloggers and armchair critics have ever ridden in their combined lives.  

And then there is the Tour de France itself... only one, albeit the most famous, of the races in the cycling calendar... over 3000km in 20 stages... up and down mountains that are far bigger than anything we have here in Australia... it is one of the most grueling tests of endurance in the world of sport.  Lance Armstrong finished this race 13 times… 13 times he rode every single mile, through the pain of blisters, injuries and legs burning from the pain of climbing 2880m up the French Alps… It is not as if the drugs he took put a motor on his bike that meant he didn't have to put in the effort to ride those hills.

Now I am certainly not trying to drum up sympathy for Lance Armstrong, but I think we have to acknowledge that there are very few people on this planet who were more dedicated to their training and competing than him.  And hence this is the great tragedy of his life... the tragedy is that it was all for nothing… 

Lance Armstrong has given his whole life to training and competing in cycling races… sacrificed every ounce of energy he had and yet it was all for nothing… he has been disqualified, dethroned and  disgraced because he broke the rules… See no one cares about all his training now... No one gives a stuff about his monumental efforts now… And all his accomplishments have been stripped away... All because he cheated!  His whole life has been wasted, not one ounce of his energy and effort has amounted to anything... Lance Armstrong put ridiculous stress through his body, drained every last drop of energy from it and sacrificed hour upon hour upon hour of his life AND IT WAS ALL FOR NOTHING!

But an even greater tragedy would be for you to suffer a similar fate when it came to your salvation!  See there is a way in which you can attempt to live out your Christianity which will see you put in miles and miles of effort, hours and hours of time but come up completely empty handed in the end. 
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)
There are far too many people living out their Christianity through the lens of the Law.  Far too easily faith for us can become a matter of simple obedience to laws like, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”  And we start to rate our level of faith and gain our assurance of salvation from our capacity to keep the laws that we make for ourselves…  When we are doing a good job of obeying our laws we feel happy and sure in our salvation, but if we go through a struggle then doubt, fear and guilt creep in and we do everything we can to beat ourselves back into shape.  There is no more grueling regime of religion than the legalistic one.

But here is the tragedy!  According to Paul in the text above legalistic adherence to human made regulations is destined to perish... Like Lance Armstrong you can give your life to the grueling and relentless pursuit of legalism and it will bleed you dry, take everything that you have and give you nothing but devastation in the end!  For a time you will look wise, look holy, look like you have it all together, look like you are on top of your game, but in the end you will be disqualified, dethroned and disgraced.  

You cannot win your salvation.. You cannot work or train for your salvation... Salvation does not go to the victors but the losers... The salvation offered in the gospel is the free gift of God!  Jesus Christ through His life, death, resurrection and glorification has alone won our salvation and graciously imparts it to all those who repent of their incapacity to please God and put their trust in Him.

Don't waste your life conforming it to legalistic regulations that you are never going to be able to keep and are actually powerless in the battle against sin.  Don't sacrifice hours and hours of your life and every ounce of energy you have on a regime that is only going to disqualify you in the end - that would be the greatest tragedy of all.