3 Valuable Justice Lessons from the Olympics

[fusion_text]The Olympics are over.  The flame extinguished.  Athletes will not gather again until 2020 in Tokyo.  But they leave behind milestones and memories.  They also leave behind three valuable justice lessons.

Lesson 1:  Justice Restores

Sometimes we forget.  Biblical justice isn’t about punishment but restoration.  The Hebrew word is Tzedek and it means to restore what is broken.

Justice looks to the interest of others.  Justice stops to help.  A powerful image of this came from the women’s 5,000 meter race.  New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin collided with US runner Abbey D’Agostino.  Both fell.  Abbey was up first and immediately turned to help Nikki.  “Get up,” she told her.  “We have to finish this.”

As they began to move, Abbey fell again recognizing she had a serious ankle injury.  Now Nikki helped her up.  The two finished the race to the roar of spectators.  Two strangers represented the best of the Olympic Spirit as they each restored the other and encouraged each other to press on.

Justice is like that.  We see a neighbor in need.  Could be a stranger.  But we stop to see them restored and encourage them to continue their race.

Most of us know the world’s fastest man – Usain Bolt.  A great entertainer, Usain is also a wonderful example of the Olympic spirit. Usain volunteers for the Special Olympics guiding blind runners.  He helps them push past their limitations to do what they did not think possible.  As we run the race of justice we need to do the same.

usain bolt

Lesson 2:  Justice Prevails

Sometimes justice seems to lose.  Isaiah said it this way, “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.”  Isa. 59:14.

Last week the world witnessed a visible demonstration as truth stumbled in the streets of Rio as American swimmer Ryan Lochte and other swimmers concocted a false mugging.  We were quick to assume the truth of the reports because of the trouble with crime in Rio.  Our assumptions demonstrate too well how quick we are to assume the truth of justice and crime in America.

Rio reacted quickly.  Video surfaced showing how the swimmers were acting upon their return to the Olympic Village.  Then additional video surfaced of the swimmers vandalizing a gas station bathroom and a security guard seeking to prevent the US men from fleeing the scene.  Initially the swimmers stuck to their story, but the second video forced them to recant.

While some tried to excuse their conduct as “boys being boys”, most were appalled at how they would not own up to the mistake.  Ryan Lochte fled the country leaving his teammates to be hauled off an airplane for questioning.  Injustice is self-seeking.  Injustice is everyone out for themselves.  Injustice lies.  Injustice shifts blame.  But justice prevails.

For Ryan Lochte that was appropriate charges and even more appropriate loss of endorsements.  In life, justice is often slow.  Sometimes it seems to stumble.  But in the end justice prevails.  Maybe not in this life, but there is a perfect God of justice who promises to set all things right.  Justice will prevail.

The perfect example of this in Rio was the first Refugee team.  These 10 athletes understand injustice.  They endured searing loss and unimaginable obstacles.  Yet they persevered.  While none receive medals, they all won gold through recognition that through no fault of their own they were athletes without a country.  The IOC welcomed them.  The people of the world welcomed them.  May we do the same.


Lesson 3:  Justice is a team event

No one should do justice alone.  Justice requires community.  Justice requires preparation and perseverance.  Athletes demonstrated that over the past couple of weeks.

The “final five” gymnastics women demonstrated great team work.  As a team they supported and encouraged each other even when competing against one another.  They certainly weren’t alone.  Kerry Walsh-Jennings was one of the most decorated beach volleyball players of all time.  She had never lost a match in her three prior Olympics.  Now with a new partner, April Ross, she faced her first defeat to Brazil.  While the US took bronze, Kerry demonstrated great team spirit.

The women’s 4×100 relay team almost suffered a major defeat as they dropped the baton in preliminaries.  But justice prevailed as the replay demonstrated they were pushed.  Running alone on a track to qualify, the team focused and worked together to set the fastest qualifying time.  They went on to win gold.  But through it all they gave the glory to God.  They prayed and shared how many were praying for them.  That’s a powerful image of justice.


Justice isn’t a spectator sport.  You have to get in the game.  But justice isn’t a lone event.  Justice takes a team.  Justice requires people praying together and working together to accomplish a common purpose.  This is why we don’t build justice individuals.  We build justice teams.  Prayer warriors, lawyers, advocates, intake specialist, hospitality, interpreters and phone follow-up all play an important role in passing the baton of justice.

Justice requires preparation and perseverance.  Challenges abound.  Failures come.  But progress is made as we restore people and right systems.  Progress is made as we see justice prevail in small ways and know one day justice will be fully realized.  Progress is made as we work together with others to make a difference.

Thank you to our Olympians who show the world the true spirit of the games.  Intended as a symbol of peace, the games continue to provide valuable lessons for us all.

Let’s follow their example.  Let’s get in the game of justice.  Join a team.  Make a difference.[/fusion_text]