John 15: 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
The Olympics can be a wonderful stage for book-worthy stories. The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia are no exception. One such story comes from the Canadian Long Track Speed Skating Team. 28-year old Denny Morrison has been one of Canada’s top men’s long-track speed skaters in the middle distances for eight years, but the home Olympics in Vancouver were miserable for him as far as individual performances in the 1000m and 1500m as he finished well out of the medals.
Morrison continued his Olympic dream to medal in the individual events but that dream seemed to be crushed just a year prior to the Sochi 2014 Games when he lay on a cross country ski trail with a broken leg. Morrison had been the reigning 1500m champion and World Cup leader in 2012 just before breaking his fibula. While it could have been the end of his career, Morrison showed the perseverance that got him to the highest stage of his sport in the first place as he worked hard to recover and return to World Cup Racing.
Post leg break, Morrison’s times just were not there, as he worked hard to regain his form. He had some good finishes but nothing that would get him on the podium. To make matters worse, in December of 2013 at the Canadian Olympic trials, Morrison was 50 metres away from qualifying for the Games in the 1000m when he clipped a skate and fell. This is where the story gets interesting though. Just prior to the 1000m race in Sochi, the coaching staff announced that Gilmore Junio, a 23-year old Olympic rookie would give up his spot in the race for Morrison as he felt he had a better chance of medalling. “This is an amazing gesture, and I’m ready to make the most of this opportunity”, stated a moved Morrison.
And much like the script to a movie, Morrison, while not reaching the podium any time this season, skated one of his greatest races ever to win the silver medal. “After what (Junio) did, it made it even more special. Giving up your spot is unprecedented. I feel like getting my medal and cutting it in half because he deserves it”, said Morrison in an emotional post-race interview with his arm around his selfless teammate.
While this story is heartwarming and epitomizes the team spirit, there is an even greater story of selflessness, a far more powerful story of substitution. That story was played out over 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ, the Son of God exchanged places with all of humanity. In this case he voluntarily took our place to take on the sin that we deserved. And to make it even more powerful and painful, Jesus had a choice, but God the Father sent his Son knowing what he would endure. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Always remember this incredible story of substitution and remember the love that your Saviour has for you. Internalize it, embrace it and “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15).