[The Leader newspaper, (August 3, 2004 issue.)]


"These summer months are, in our Province, a time for flying flags which, unfortunately, often becomes a cause for division and dispute.


"But very soon on our television screens we will see a flag and I pray that we will learn the message of it.


It is the Olympic flag and when the Olympic Games open in Athens in Greece very soon now, one of the first acts of the Games will be the rising of the Olympic flag in the main stadium.


"The Olympic flag is very interesting.  It consists of five coloured rings all linked together.  The colours of the rings are blue, yellow, black, green and red.


"Those five rings symbolise the five continents of the world - blue for Europe, yellow for Asia, black for Africa, green for America and red for Australia.


"The idea conveyed by the Olympic flag is that competitors from the nations of the world would join together in friendly competition in sport and not in the hostility of war.


"While the origin of the Olympic Games is not known for sure, the first Games are believed to have been held in 776BC. They were then held at four yearly intervals until 393AD when Greece was ruled by the Roman Empire.


"The Games were revived in 1896 in a new marble stadium in Athens, due largely to the efforts of a French Baron who was convinced that nothing but good could come from bringing the nations together in a sporting competition.


"The good Baron’s ambition was that athletes of every nation would come together ‘unmindful of national rivalries, jealousies of every kind, and with all considerations of politics, race, religion, wealth and social status eliminated’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica).


"Sadly, in our modern world, those high ideals have often been forgotten.  For the forthcoming Games the host nation, Greece, will have to spend millions of pounds on security alone. The threat of terrorism is very present.


"But what has the Olympic flag to say to us here in Ulster. The last few weeks have seen rival factions confronting each other and people driven from their homes because of their race or religion. But if we claim to be Christian then we must obey the teaching of our Master, Jesus Christ, who said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.’ (Matthew 5: 9).


"The prayer of Asissi would be a good prayer to make our own:-


Make me a channel of thy peace that where there is hatred I may bring love;

that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;

that where there is error, I may bring truth;

that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;

that where there is despair, I may bring hope;

that where there are shadows, I may bring light;

that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Grant that I may seek to bring comfort, rather than be comforted;

to understand rather than be understood;

to love rather than be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds, it is by forgiving that one is forgiven.”


Unknown to the anonymous writer of the above article and ironically, ‘very soon on our television screens - the following day in fact, on August 4th - a B.B.C.1 programme (Panaroma) entitled, "Buying the Games" was shown.  The programme highlighted the corruption which was rife amongst members of the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.).  It was disclosed that: -


"Scandal is set to rock the Athens Olympics - and they don’t even open until next week.  A team of journalists have spent a year undercover, as consultants, finding out what it takes to get the Games, and the answer is simple - cash.  The reporters found evidence that votes of some members of the International Olympic Committee are being offered for sale to cities with the fattest wads of dosh.  So with London preparing its bid for 2012, perhaps someone should start a whip-round." - Ian Bradford.


It was shown throughout the programme that many of these I.O.C. members had over past years had accepted bribes: and were very willing and ready to do so today.  These bribes consisted of large sums of money, personal privileges, and various benefits for family members and friends of I.O.C. members; and in return their vote would help promote a particular country which desperately wanted, at whatever cost, to be a host nation for the Olympic Games.


Had these facts been known by our anonymous writer in The Leader, I doubt if he would have entitled his article "Follow this Flag" for it was shown that I.O.C. members’ behaviour is a disgrace to the principles for which the Olympic flag was initially intended to stand for!


As I thought on the words, "Sadly in our modern world, those high ideals have often been forgotten;" I thought how easy it would be to draw a like comparison with the disgraceful behaviour within Christendom.  Are there not multitudes of so called ‘committee membersinside the Church, who are accepting money for their services, but are unwilling to disclose conditional truths?  Do they have any interest in bringing ‘truth’, ‘hope’, ‘light’, ‘joy’, or ‘understanding’ to the redeemed people of God relative to Christ’s Millennial Kingdom?


The ‘idea conveyed’ by these so called Christian ‘committee members’ is that, according to them, everything is ‘free’ (Rom. 6: 23, R.V.): there is noage’ to be ‘considered worthy of taking part in’, (Luke 20: 35); noprize’ to win, (Phil. 3: 14); nocrown’ to lose, (Rev. 3: 11); no deliberate sin to commit, (Heb. 10: 26); no punishment to deserve (Heb. 10: 29); no millennial kingdom to come, (Rev. 20: 4); noresurrection out from the dead’ to ‘attain’, (Phil 3: 11); and no tribulation to ‘watch and pray’ in order to ‘escape’, (Luke 21:36; Rev. 3: 10).  The general public are not the only ones being deceived, cheated, or short changed; the redeemed people of God are being treated in like fashion!


Christians don’t have a flag for its true members to rally under; they have a Person.  But if they had a flag, it would probably have the words ‘FAITHFUL’ and ‘TRUE’ written all over it, (Rev. 3: 14).  In Christendom today all we can expect to hear only half truths: ‘the whole will of God’ is not being proclaimed, (Acts 20: 23-31) ...


"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful," (1 Cor. 4: 2).


All who accept bribes do not walk in God’s ways; they accept "dishonest gain," "oppress the righteous" and "deprive the poor of justice," (1 Sam. 8: 3; Amos 5: 12).  Therefore, when Jesus addressed His "disciples" (Matt. 13: 10), He said ...


"When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart... What was sown on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since he has no root, he lasts only for a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word he quickly falls away.  What was sown among thorns is the man who hears the word but worries of this life [or age] AND THE DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH - ["and the desires of other things," (Mark 4: 19)] - CHOKE IT, MAKING IT UNFRUITFUL," (Matt. 13: 19-22).


And again ...


"But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.  You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel," (Luke 22: 26-30).


Followers of Christ (i.e., disciples) do not need a Bible College Diploma (or any other worldly qualification to be qualified or able to interpret the true meaning of their Master’s words: they need to be willing and ready - whatever the personal cost may be - to OBEY them!


... "Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you be rewarded fully.  Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching - [i.e., by walking in obedience to His commands, and by acknowledging Jesus Christ coming in the flesh (v 6, 7)] - has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.  Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work," (2 John 8-11).


"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Heb. 13: 20, 21.)