Political and social turmoil both within Brazil and on the global stage have threatened to taint the start of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August. Yet, we’ve seen before that at the heart of things, race, religion, and politics have little bearing on what’s truly possible. American Jesse Owens, the grandson of a slave, proved this when he walked away with four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, against the backdrop of the Nazi government in Germany and Jim Crow laws at home.
The world has come a long way since that time, though current racial divides and prejudices show we haven’t put all bias behind us. Those of us watching the Olympic Games from home or in the stands can prayerfully support the shared humanity of the athletes and uphold that which unites our global family, symbolized by the iconic interlaced Olympic rings.
My prayers have been inspired by the spiritual conviction expressed in these words by the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations …” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340). As we read in the first chapter of Genesis, we are all created by God. This is a deeper, truer way of looking at our fellow man and woman. And our spiritual identity as the children of the one creator is a foundation for unity, not division. The Apostle Paul taught: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Holding to this may seem like a tall order, since intolerance and a lack of unity among men and women of differing racial, ethnic, religious, and educational backgrounds are at the root of much of the rancor in society today. Yet the fact that there is one God, who is good (see Matthew 19:17) and who is Love itself (see I John 4:16), according to the Scriptures, is a uniting force.
Christ Jesus taught that when we see past exterior labels and become more conscious of the God-given goodness that is inherent in our neighbors, we begin to truly love as God loves. God’s love is impartial, all-embracing, harmonious, and without conditions – because God knows us not as flawed material beings, but as His perfect spiritual creation. It is precisely this love that saves and heals, as Jesus proved, and impels us toward unity. Christian Science, which elucidates the laws and truths underlying Jesus’ teaching and healing, explains how we, too, can emulate Jesus’ example and learn to love and heal spiritually.
In the face of current world events, many of us might be thinking along the lines of this Bible passage: “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother …?” (Malachi 2:10). Yet as we recognize that Love is the only true power, we will see more and more how it overturns hatred.
Choosing to see the light of goodness in our neighbor – including all those involved in the Olympics – and refusing to nurse hatred, fear, or judgment is a powerful way to erode animosity. This is something we are all capable of doing because of who we truly are. “Truth not error, Love not hate, Spirit not matter, governs man,” explains Science and Health (p. 420).
Praying to acknowledge God’s care for all of us and endeavoring to uphold the spiritual view of man in our daily lives and thoughts helps us see the abundant harmony and goodness of God’s creation. This understanding can impel kindness and forgiveness that are equally natural and can be evident whether in Rio or in Rome. And as we honor the athleticism of Olympians, we can affirm that their true spiritual identity is not confined to the national flag standing behind each participant.
This summer’s Olympic Games can be a symbol of the kind of unification and peace so needed in our world today. Our prayers can actively support this unity and promote peace and progress.
Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor, @CSMonitor