August 6, 2012

Shuttlecock Scandal: A Parable of Poor Service

by Clint Archer

Last week’s Olympic badminton scandal (I really relish that phrase) provides an apt metaphor for many Christian lives. Our Lord was fond of these real-life snapshots of poor stewardship and its consequence. The New Testament parables are peppered with stewards who didn’t try hard enough (e.g. Luke 12:45; Matt 25:26-27).shuttlecock

A quick recap of the shocking slackness that made history. At the London games last week 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 fathom the spectacle of having 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 deliberately throwing their matches.

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 the 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.


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.

Needless to say, back in China I’m sure a red-faced apology will either need to be accompanied by a type of public mea culpa reputation hara-kiri by the disgraced Shuttlecock-gate villains.

I commend the IOC for the honor they accorded to the sport. (Pity they hadn’t warmed up that the concept in the cruel case of Shin Lam’s fencing fiasco).

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.
  • Totally fitting that the olympics give us an illustration of the Bema seat. History has come full circle.

    • pastorarcher

      Totally. BTWm the extant Bema seat at Corinth was used for rewards ceremonies in the Isthmian games, a precursor to the Olympics.

  • Karl Heitman

    Fine post! I like this: “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.”

    Do you think the common obsession with “freedom in Christ” (i.e., meaning “I can do _____ because I’m not under the law!”) plays a part in the tension between living a life of obedience and becoming legalistic or having a “sensitive conscience?”

    • pastorarcher

      Absolutely. Freedom in Christ refers to being able to using our discretion to honor Christ, not to get away with dishonorable behavior. Under the Law it was always wrong to eat pork, for example. In the NT it is only wrong when it causes a weaker brother to stumble, but not at other times. This freedom creates the tension.

    • pastorarcher

      Absolutely. Freedom from the Law means that more discretion is needed when choosing to refrain from certain lawful behavior, for the sake of loving one’s neighbor and glorifying God.

  • There are obviously parallels to USSR vs. USA in Olympic rivalry during the Cold War, but the term ‘Red China’ is outdated at best, and perpetuates xenophobia at worst. Please stop using it. I appreciate the overall message.

    • pastorarcher

      Good point Samuel. I’ll be more sensitive about that in the future.

    • pastorarcher

      Thanks for pointing that out, Samuel, you make a good point. I took the term out of the post, and wil be more sensitive about it in the future. Just to ease international tension on the Cripplegate I should disclose that I’m not American!

  • I seriously wasn’t even aware there was such a thing as Olympic badminton. Is there Olympic Scrabble too?

    • pastorarcher

      There should be a push for the inclusion of olympic Scrabble. I’m sure the hold-up is a debate about which alphabet of characters can be used.

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