Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Marion Jones is "Achan"

Sorry for the play on words. As you probably know by now, former U.S. track and field superstar, Marion Jones, admitted she cheated to win her five medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney Australia. I vividly remember watching in awe and admiration as she destroyed the competition in those games.

While I feel cheated having given her victory some amount of emotional energy and lasting admiration, I am very impressed with the honesty of Marion Jones, to come forth and tell the truth. She looked broken and sad while confessing, yet she also looked relieved. Guilt is a heavy burden to carry.

Unfortunately, an inevitable fall-out development of Jones' rule breaking is a stark reminder of how sin doesn't only effect the person sinning, but also those who are in relationship with that person.

One of the five medals Jones' won was part of a four-woman relay team. According to the rules, Jones' cheating should cause the team's win to be disqualified. This means Passion Richardson, a teammate of Jones for that race, will likely have her bronze medal stripped because of Jones' actions. The whole team will pay for Jones' impropriety. That's how it works in team competitions.

That reminds me of Achan, in the bible. Check out Joshua 6 & 7. There was Achan among the other warriors of Israel. They routed the mighty, fortified city of Jericho. As the Lord commanded, they went through Jericho and killed every living thing. No one was supposed to take any spoils from that victory as it served as a reminder to all the Israelites that victory was being granted by God, to whom they paid tribute by leaving the goods after conquering. As Achan was walking through the conquered city, something shiny catches his eye. He looks closer and sure enough it looks like one of those ornate coats the Babylonians make. So he allows his eyes to fix upon the coat. He then notices some silver shekels and a nice size chunk of gold. Then he thinks to himself-"What a shame that such a fine robe would go to waste". He begins longing after the coat, the silver, and the gold. Without a moment more of thought, Achan swipes the coat, swipes the gold, and swipes the silver. Pockets bulging, Achan hurries to his tent where he perhaps thinks about what he has done. He then decides to hide the stolen goods under his family’s tent. So his sin had run its course. He saw, he coveted, he took, he hid. As a result of Achan's one, personal, secret sin, God disciplines all of Israel (Achan's "team", you might say) by allowing an inferior opponent (Ai) to whoop them in a skirmish, leaving several of Achan's countrymen dead. After such an overwhelming victory against Jericho, Israel had to be baffled as to why God would not deliver Ai in to their hands. It was the "secret" sin of Achan that caused the entire nation to pay. To make matters personally worse- Israel didn't just punish Achan for his sin- his whole family died in judgment with him. One man's sinful action caused all sorts of corporate pain.

Marion Jones made a decision. She saw the potential fame, the glamour of being an Olympic champion, longed for the glory of winning, and in a season of weakness, began taking at least two performance enhancing drugs she knew were illegal and unethical. She kept it secret, even lied about taking them, but as is the case with all sin- it found her out. She could probably have kept denying guilt, but this week it seemingly got the best of her (not to mention more legal scrutiny and a possible perjury charge) and she fessed' up. I am truly glad for this, I do respect her for confessing the way she did, but her team now has to pay for her personal sin.

Passion Richardson has thought of herself as part of an Olympic relay bronze-medal winning team for the better part of seven years. The bronze medal from Syndey is no doubt hanging somewhere in her living room. Now, the IOC will be calling to ask for the bronze medal back. She has to be ticked. "What a crock- I didn't take steroids!", she must be thinking. Yet, it's true- because of one person's sin, the whole team pays.

Marion Jones, in a sense, is Achan. I know she must be hurting. I don't know if she knows Christ. I hope this situation will be used of the Lord to bring her to trust Jesus. Still, it really illustrates how sin affects the people around us. There really isn't any such thing as "secret sin".

I think the words of C.S. Lewis are helpful here:

We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin…But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ.

There is a redemptive reminder that comes to me when I consider the sin of one causing the pain of others. My sin causes pain to my family, my friends, my congregation, etc. No sin happens in a vacuum. My sin, caused Christ's pain. In closing, I am drawn to the beauty of Romans 5:

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Death in Adam, Life in Christ 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Frontier Forest said...

I too was moved by her open and humble brokenness. And my first thoughts were, “Hope this is true PETER repentance and not just Judas remorse!” There are no more powerful thoughts of reconciliation, and glorious expressions of joyous forgiveness than Romans chapters 5 and 6. Of course chapter 8 is VICTORY beyond comprehension!

jeremy morgan said...

This has always been one of the most difficult bits of Israel's history for me to read. Perhaps it's my latent individualism, but I was always struck by the fact that 36 men died. There were widows and children grieving because their husbands and fathers died because of a sin committed by someone who they probably didn't even know. The concept of covenantal identity and the associated blessing and cursing is quite harrowing.