By WALTER ALBRITTON
The Ken Burns television series on Muhammad Ali filled me with mixed emotions — admiration and sadness. I admired Ali’s relentless determination to prove to the world that he was the greatest boxer of all time. He did that by winning the heavyweight championship three times. But I was saddened by his abuse of basic moral principles, especially the institution of marriage.
When Muhammad stepped into the ring, he was focused on one thing — to show everyone what he could do. As I reflect on that trait in him, it occurs to me that there is something of that in all of us. As children we grow up eager to show our parents what we can do. It starts early. “I can walk,” “I can use the potty,” “I can recite my ABC’s,” “I can be a cheerleader,” “I can play on the varsity team.”
The Olympics showcase this aspect of human nature. Every athlete wants to win the gold medal. When Caeleb Dressel won the men’s swimming gold medal last July, he turned toward the camera smiling as if he were saying, “Look what I have done! I am the fastest swimmer in the world!”
As Americans we are proud of Dressel. We love our champions. We want the US to head the list of gold medal winners. When our hometown heroes achieve greatness, we arrange a parade to celebrate what they have done.
This desire for recognition goes beyond athletics. In our communities we love to vote for “the best” in everything: the best bank, the best truck, the best car, the best barbeque sauce, etc. This feeds our passion to show others what we can do.
When it comes to following Christ, this is not God’s plan. He does not ask his people to show how great they are but to proclaim God’s greatness. This may be seen plainly in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 14, when Paul and Barnabas return from a missionary journey. On arriving back in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas “gathered the church together and reported on all that God had done through them, and how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”
Paul does not boast that his mighty prayer had caused a cripple in Lystra to jump up and start walking. Nor does Paul claim that he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. He spoke humbly of what God had done.
The early disciples had a simple message: God has raised Jesus from the dead — what God had done. They did not invite people to admire their greatness; they invited them to look to God and praise Him for his mighty deeds. And the church grew.
Today, our mission as Christ followers is to tell others what God has done, what He is doing now and what He can do when we surrender to His Son Jesus. Tell it — and you’ll see what God can do.