In 1924, the Olympic Games were held in Paris. One race in particular has been immortalised for us by the film Chariots of Fire. It is the 400m, in which Eric Lidell beat the favourites and set a new world record in the process. You can watch the Pathe newsreel of the event on YouTube (but don’t expect the cameras to move to, following the action). His victory was remarkable because his best distance was 100m, and he only had a few months to train for the longer race.
What is more remarkable is that he felt he couldn’t compete in the 100m because some of the heats were being run on a Sunday, and that was the Lord’s Day. We may not feel that we would have made the same decision, but he was absolutely right to follow his conscience because to go against conscience is always sinful. Perhaps even more remarkable still is that he never raced at that level again, despite being a world beater, but kept his promise to return to China as a missionary, where he would die at the age of 43.
The precise issue won’t be the same for us (which of us will have the opportunity to take part in any Olympic event, let alone the 100m?), but one thing will be the same. If we want to follow Christ there will be a place where we have to draw the line, a time when we have to say ‘no’. As Liddell himself put it, “Each one comes to the cross-roads at some period in his life and must make his decision for or against his Master.”