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Photo British Athletics

"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."

Innocent Egbunike's prayer at the 1988 Olympics

Take a knee

For this reason, I kneel before the Father, Ephesians 3:14

One of the many changes that came with the re-introduction of Premier League Football in England was the sight of players and match officials going down on one knee before the game commenced. (I know that some people are uncomfortable with it, seeing it as a political gesture but in the Premier League it seems to have been a spontaneous, player-led response to contemporary events).

There is a lot about kneeling in the Bible. We may think of the leper kneeling before Jesus (Mark 1:40), Stephen at the moment of his death (Acts 7:60), Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41).

Paul is here acknowledging that we are children of one Father and that we gain our real identity through Him. Of course, our identity is partly in our family, in our nationality, in our profession and in our sport. But above and through everything, our identity is in being a child of God.

I am very comfortable with the concept of players and athletes “taking a knee” to acknowledge injustices and failures of our society. But above and beyond that, we need, like Paul, to kneel before our Father God and the knowledge our position in relation to him.

When Paul wrote these words he was facing death. I’m sure he was anxious and fearful. But through it all he was aware that God was in control and that nothing – death included – could separate him from the love of Christ.

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