Extended Adolescence on Display in Rio
If you’ve visited our Transform page and want to know more about what we mean by “biblical adulthood,” we can tell you that its exact opposite is the behavior exhibited by some U.S. athletes in Rio de Janeiro in August. The antithesis of biblical adulthood is “extended adolescence,” and their actions – especially those of the 32-year-old multiple medalist – provide a perfect example of it.
To recap, these athletes became quite drunk, vandalized a gas station when they attempted to use a closed restroom, and after security guards forced them to pay restitution at gunpoint (an extrajudicial action to be sure), lied about what had happened by claiming to have been robbed by fake police officers.
Much of the world rushed to criticize the athletes, but the Rio Olympics spokesperson foolishly gave the four drunk buddies a bye when he chalked up their behavior to "boys being boys." The spokesman said, “Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you take actions that you later regret. They are magnificent athletes. [He] is one of the best swimmers of all times. They had fun. They made a mistake. It’s part of life. Life goes on.”
Oh, really?! Friends, that swimmer is not a 17-year-old adolescent, he is a 32-year-old man. More than that, he was given the sacred trust of representing the United States of America on the global stage. Thus his conduct, both on the field and off, is of importance as he represents the U.S.A. That's what adults do.
We can’t give that athlete a pass. He must carry the burden and weight of responsibility for his actions. There is no one else to blame – even the alcohol. This was not kids being kids, this was an adult making very bad choices and then, in desperation, lying about it to protect his reputation.
We’re glad so many people have been outraged by his behavior, and yet that behavior is all too common and is not limited to athletes. Adults in all walks of life engage in similar behavior (drunkenness, disorderly conduct, blame shifting, lying) on a daily basis. When these adults happen to be professing Christians, damage is done to Christ’s reputation, the person’s reputation, and his church’s reputation. The Lord’s grace is sufficient to overcome these sins when repentance is made, and yet Christians are instructed not to continue in sin so that grace may abound (Romans 6:1).
Christian youth and adults do not become biblical adults automatically. “Biblical adults” are Christians who find their identity in Christ; who recognize that their actions reflect that identity; who take their sanctification and their witness to the world very seriously; and who seek to practically live out their beliefs with faithfulness, honor, loyalty, courage, and sacrifice. There is more to the Christian life than the moment of salvation. There is a process of sanctification empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit that produces the Fruit of the Spirit in people’s lives.
The Christian must make a conscious effort not to interfere with the Holy Spirit’s work in his life, and that effort requires determination. The Christian life is a struggle, and learning to struggle well is essential to sanctification. A key part of struggling well is learning to act responsibly, something we hope these athletes are learning but that we know they will never master apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit received through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.