America’s best hope for a medal in boxing, Demetrius Andrade, the reigning welterweight world champ was upset in a quaterfinal bout on Sunday . After the fight Andrade exhibited astonishingly poor sportsmanship by leaving the ring before the referee announced the official decision.

So it was particularly surprising when, only a few moments later, Andrade displayed a nice bit of theological sophistication. Asked by NBC’s Jim Gray to describe his inner sense of disappointment, Andrade said (I paraphrase), that he didn’t really have any way to express it, but that he thanked God for taking care of him and getting him this far.

This is a small point, to be sure, but when’s the last time you saw an athlete thank God for his grace in defeat?

Many athletes have the annoying habit of thanking God for their victories and accomplishments, often in such a manner as to suggest that God was favoring them against their opponent. (Tennis’s Michael Chang was one of the worst offenders throughout the early 1990s.)

To be sure, very little human accomplishment is begotten without the help of our Lord. But his ways are opaque to human eyes and it is wrong-headed to think that in, say, a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, God has chosen a side.

(Actually, that’s a bad example, since the Lord has obviously been punishing Philadelphia’s teams for the city’s sins during the last twenty-five years. But you get the idea.)

The proper way to understand the role of the Almighty in athletics is to recognize his grace in your performance, not in the outcome, and to trust that whatever result occurs is part of the Lord’s plan for you. Very few professional athletes seem to understand this. Demetrius Andrade is a pleasant exception.

Articles by Jonathan V. Last

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