The Tokyo 2020 Olympics the men’s Rugby 7’s final was played between New Zealand and Fiji. You likely missed the live broadcast, as I did, as Australia wasn’t in it! Defending their gold from Rio in 2016, the Fijians won 27-12. After the final whistle, each of the Fijians broke down in an outpouring of emotion.
Like many athletes, these men had worked hard to get to that point. They’d worked hard to keep their team unity amid difficult circumstances and to keep their focus on their goal for love of their country and their sport. Like many others, because of COVID they had been separated from their families and friends for the last five months. They did quarantine and trained in Australia before going to Tokyo, effectively being locked down together for all that time until the games. They even had to hitch a ride on a cargo flight filled with frozen fish and athletes from other Pacific countries to get to Tokyo! They endured many difficulties together, yet all the while, those they loved back home endured greater struggles with the pandemic sweeping through their land. It was hard for them to stay focussed, but despite their trials they remained unified as one, and won a great victory for their country that night.
At that final whistle, they dropped to their knees, giving thanks to God for what they had achieved and the victory they’d been given. What is more, they then came together, as one, shoulder to shoulder in a tight circle, and began to sing with their hearts and voices in Fijian, ‘E Da Sa Qada.’The stands were empty, the background advertising noise died away, but their voices rang out as the broadcast went world-wide.
What struck me more than their strong, tuneful male voices, were the words they sang with great meaning. I had no idea what they were until the English verse sounded out like a bell: “We have overcome, we have overcome. By the blood of the Lamb, and the Word of the Lord, we have overcome!” Then, as one, they knelt in prayer giving thanks to the Lord. What a moment of witness to the world!With all the bias against Christianity that can be part of our modern-day media, it didn’t take long before the broadcast cut away to the commentators in the studio. Still, in that moment, the light of their joy and faith had been seen, shining like a beacon of hope.
As one commentator wrote, “their triumph was symbolic of their ‘work together, love one another’ spirit” [B.Ryan, The Guardian, 29/7/21]. But it was much more than that as well. Here were these giant men, these strong and healthy athletes, yet, they were also gentle, humble, faithful, patient, god-fearing men, of one spirit, united in love and faith together. They were singing in harmony with one voice in worship of Jesus, their Saviour, the Lamb of God. As they did, they bore a powerful, beautiful witness of the victory they had because of Him. Moreover, they were pointing the world to the ultimately more significant victory that is available to everyone through the blood of Christ.
These men loved their sport, they loved their country, their victory, and their families back home – the passion was palpable. Although it was their first love which shone brighter still. May we similarly share our passion for our first love as we point all people to the hope we have in Jesus, our Saviour and Lord.