August 29, 2016

Shuttlecock Scandal: A Parable of Poor Service (Olympic reprise)

by Clint Archer

In the afterglow of the Rio 2016 Summer Games, I thought I’d reprise this quirky piece of recent Olympic history. The 2012 London Olympics saw a scandalous badminton debacle, which provides an apt metaphor for many Christian lives. Our Lord was fond of these types of real-life snapshots of poor stewardship and its consequence. The New Testament parables are peppered with stewards who weren’t faithful to their assignments (e.g. Luke12:45; Matt 25:26-27).shuttlecock

Here’s a quick recap of the farcical fiasco. At the London games eight of the ladies’ doubles badminton players from China, South Korea, and Indonesia were disqualified for, in the words of the International Olympic Committee’s VP, Craig Reedie, “not using one’s best efforts to win a match.” I love it.

The players had all made it through the elimination round and were apparently attempting to lose their games in the hopes of attaining a more lenient placing in the next round. Can you imagine the spectacle of expert athletes trying to lose to each other? These national superstars (evidently badminton is big in Asia) weren’t simply lagging a little in their enthusiasm, they were all willfully playing terribly.

The comical self-sabotage was hard to miss. Here are the eight best female badminton players on the planet, repeatedly serving with such lackluster effort that the shuttlecock couldn’t muster enough height to even clear the net. I don’t mean it tipped the top as it rocketed out of bounds, I mean the iconic capsule sagged in a pathetic arc under the net…a lot.Inline image 1


Of course, this happens all the time when I try my uncoordinated hand at any sport with a net and a projectile, but these are Olympians. They could have tried to look at least mildly disappointed when they lost a point.

Their dastardly attempts were handled decisively with a no-decision decision from the Olympic authorities. Not a single medal was awarded, and the finalists were all DQ’d on the spot.

Drama, drama, drama.

I commend the IOC for the honor they accorded to the sport.

There is an unfortunate parallel in the spiritual realm.

Grace by faith alone is a precious doctrine the Reformers spilt their blood to defend. But ever since its most popular publication (i.e. the Book of Romans), there have been professing believers who were tempted to rest on the laurels of free forgiveness.

Paul addressed those who would sin under the banner of “once saved always saved” with these unambiguous words…

Rom 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

When Christians feel as though they needn’t tackle their sanctification with blood-earnest zeal because they are guaranteed a spot in heaven anyway, they dishonor the blood Jesus spilt to win them for his service and glory. Not only does God save us in order to serve him with good works (Eph 2:10), but he promises lavish reward for those who are good stewards of their gifts. For those who are contend to behave like slack servants there will be a forfeiture of reward (1 Cor 3:13-15).

How’s your sanctification? Have you stopped trying?

Let’s heed Paul’s locker room pep-talk in 1 Cor 9:27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Maranatha

    My personal experience in Germany in the age of absolute Laodicea and decline of faith all around me is more to the contrary – like a kind of “spiritual underload” (if you know what I mean). I feel like being trained for the kingdom of peace, not anymore for this endtimes church period. My actual experience could be expressed with Job 6,11 – forbearance, patience and perseverance training. 🙂

  • Jane Hildebrand

    I truly believe there is no greater means of sanctification than spending prayerful time in God’s Word. Without it, we become numb not only to the sin around us, but within us. The reason the church has a low view of sanctification today is because it has a low view of God’s Word. And that is tragic.

    “Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives.” (Howard Hendricks)

  • BKlindeman

    This is a timely devotion. Recently as I have confronted outright sin in believers lives I have been met with the slogan: “oh well, Grace covers all anyway”. This is becoming a mantra in many churches. Righteousness is no longer seen as something to strive for. Paul said “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith”. Many today forget that there is a fight to be fought, a race to be run and a faith to be kept.

    Thanks for sharing this. I pray it receives wide circulation.


    • Maranatha

      ;-))) Know what you mean. Thanks and transatlantic greetings! Shalom