so this week i found out on twitter that our south african olympic swimming gold medalist, cameron van der bergh, had admitted to cheating to get his gold medal by doing a succession of dolphin kicks underwater in the pool [apparently only one is allowed] and it bummed me out.
so, as one does, i made a facebook status about it… and was doubly surprised and bummed at how many [mostly christians] wrote comments on my status defending his actions and largely from the perspective that “everyone else does it” which was cameron’s defense as well.
waitasecond, so cheating is okay if everyone is doing it? of course cos how else could he win and because the rule is silly anyways and they policed it at this other competition and so he didn’t have to cheat but this one they didn’t so he really had to and WHAT??!?!?!?
flashbacks to a baptist summer camp where i think i was camp pastor – at the time i was involved in a 6 month course on youth ministry at the baptist seminary [the only seminary coursework i have done thus far] and a bunch of the students who were training to be pastors were at this camp for youth aged 13 to 18 and the guy leading the course on youth work was heading up sports.
somehow i managed to be standing near him when a dispute was brought to him about one of the camp soccer/football games that had just been played where the rule for the game was no players over 18 [or maybe 21?] were allowed to play. one of the students [from my class at seminary, training to be a pastor] was being accused of playing in the one game despite being a few years over the allowed age.SHOCK ONE – his defense: the other team was doing it. so i am standing there not believing my ears and waiting for the lecturer to open a can of something on some part of his anatomy when SHOCK TWO – the lecturer at this christian college completely backs his student and rules in favour of him.
so clearly, cheating is condoned as long as everyone else is doing it. but that doesn’t make it right.
and reading the arguments on the ‘book they all sound pretty convincing [well not all, some of them are downright ridiculous, let’s be honest] but no-one is arguing how okay Jesus is with it. because you can’t. because He is not. i mean, i can certainly not see Jesus standing in condemnation over cameron as if he has done the worst thing ever in life and demanding that he be kicked out of the games [Go, and swim no more!] but at the same time, i imagine there might be a secret sigh, like He probly did ever so often when His disciples just completely missed the plot again, and maybe a fireside chat about how the medals that we chase in life in terms of character and integrity being so much more profoundly important than any the world might hang around our neck.
in fact Jesus had quite a lot to say about how the ‘everybody is doing it’ argument is a more likely sign that you are on the wrong path [see the whole of Matthew 7] – He said things like “the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved”[matthew 24.12-13] and we also read, ‘For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.’ [2 Timothy 4.3-4]
so i don’t believe with any part of me that Jesus would have been okay with what either cameron or the training-to-be-pastor youth leader did and although the event/incident itself may seem more or less trivial to you depending on who you are, there is a greater principle at work, because if i can watch my pastor being okay with cheating in a meaningless football/soccer game then maybe it sends me the message that it is okay to cheat in a business deal, and if i as a young south african being inspired by one of my countrymen can hear that he cheated to get there then maybe that tells me it is okay to cheat in an exam or even on my girlfriend [as long as i can cite examples of other people doing it]
it is a slippery road. to be christian and defend or even applaud unChristlike behaviour.
and a lot of people might be wondering why i am making such a big deal of such a ‘small thing’ and it is because the small things become the big things – the enemy is looking to destroy us and any area where we allow him a foot in the door he will take full advantage of it until he gets such a gap that he can force himself well and truly into our lives…
the bottom line for me, i think, is that you can’t be a Christ follower and then live by the wisdom or ideals or compromise of the world. The term ‘Christ follower’ suggests the following of Christ.