1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
In the 1920’s Eric Liddell was one of the greatest 100m sprinters Scotland had ever produced. By 1924, the Olympic year, the country was in a frenzy as their hero Liddell represented their greatest chance for a gold medal. However, there was a problem for Liddell. The 100m finals in Paris were scheduled on a Sunday and Eric believed that running on the Sabbath was dishonoring to God so he refused to participate in the 100m. As the press can so readily do, Liddell was vilified with many calling Liddell a traitor.
Although the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire makes it appear that Liddell made a last-minute decision to switch to the 400m, he in fact began training for the 400m four months in advance of the 1924 Olympics (still ridiculously close, since his PR was an average 49.6 seconds). After making it through 3 rounds of qualifying in two days, Liddell apparently ran the 400m final with a note the team trainer left in his pocket which read: “He who honors Him, He (God) will honor”[i]. Liddell, not only won the gold, but did so in Olympic and world record fashion, running 47.6 seconds.
While Liddell’s athletic accomplishments are well-documented, it is actually what he did after the 1924 Olympics that are of far greater eternal value. Like his parents, Liddell returned to China to serve as a missionary. He married and had 3 daughters, yet he never met the youngest as his pregnant wife and two daughters had to flee China as tensions mounted during the beginning of WWII. Liddell chose to stay to continue to serve the destitute Chinese until his death in an internment camp in 1945, just before liberation. Liddell was confined in Weifang camp along with other British and US expatriates. Decades later, his daughter recounts consistent stories about her father that came out of the camp.
“Inmates of the internment camp at Weifang need no embellishment. They included the elderly, children separated from their parents, wealthy oil and business executives and their families, a touring jazz band trapped by hostilities, and a white Russian prostitute”[ii]. Liddell apparently became a surrogate dad to the abandoned kids, and apparently when the prostitute was turfed out of her dormitory by the other women, Liddell put up a shelf for her, and she later recounted that “he was the only man ever to have done her a favour without seeking other favours in return”[iii]. Chinese students called him Uncle Eric and loved him.
If you choose to be obedient to Christ, you too may have to take unpopular stands that may pit you against the media and the people. Like Liddell you may be mocked and unfairly ostracized. But in the midst of such treatment, as we read in 1 Peter 2:12, we are called to “live such good lives among the [unsaved] that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds” so that they may “glorify God on the day he visits us”. If you desire to be a star, then be the star that Paul describes in his letter to the church in Philippi: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2: 14-15)
[ii] Eric Liddell Greater than Gold
[iii] Eric Liddell Greater than Gold