Eric Liddell: 1924 Olympic athlete and Christian missionary
As we continue to “live His legacy” through this school year, I thought it would be appropriate to share the legacy of a man named Eric Liddell. Liddell was touted as one of the best 100 meter sprinters in the world. The Scotsman, a devout Christian and competitive athlete, was favored to give the Americans a run for their money in the 1924 Olympics. Eight months before the competition, Liddell got word that his heat for the 100 meter dash would be run on Sunday. Without hesitation, Liddell declared he would not run on the Christian Sabbath, angering many passionate fans from his country. Being the phenomenal athlete that he was, Liddell decided to switch his training to the 400 meter dash.
He was mocked. Laughed at. Scorned. Criticized. Liddell, however, didn’t care one bit about his critics and continued training for the Olympics. He qualified for the finals of the 400, earning a spot on the far side of the track where he could not see any of the other runners. Immortalized in the movie Chariots of Fire, Liddell was given a slip of paper that read, “Those who honor me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2: 30). The note drove Liddell to sprint the 400 the way he would run the 100. Legs churning, lungs burning, he ran the race the only way he knew to run. All out. He pushed himself beyond his limits, breaking the tape in first place and earning a heralded gold medal. The medal was not just for Great Britain. It was for Christ, who Liddell continually put first in his life as a Christian missionary.
When I look at Eric Liddell’s stance about running on the Sabbath, it makes me wonder how I utilize my time on God’s day of rest. Am I truly resting? Or am I letting chores, grading papers, or other distractions get in the way? The Bible clearly states, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places” (Leviticus 23: 3). There are certainly seasons in the Christian teacher’s life that leave us swamped with boatloads of work to finish outside of the classroom, but if that spills into Sunday afternoon family time or prevents us from attending church, what would God think of us?
God created the world in six days. The entire world! But He left the seventh day to admire His own creation and to rest. Genesis 2: 3 states, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” Don’t let the busyness of life get in the way of your Sunday. Attend church. Carve out some family time. Find a way to enjoy the beauties of the fall weather God has blessed us with. Protect the Sabbath the way Eric Liddell did way back in 1924. Liddell was found speaking at a church when his 100 meter qualifying heat was run, and when the finals came, he was the first one to congratulate Jewish runner Harold Abrahams on his victory. When our time comes to pass, let God be the one congratulating you for obeying His Word.
(Eric Liddell’s 400 meter race can be seen below. Enjoy watching the Flying Scotsman win the race he was never supposed to win.)