In the past two weeks, 32-year-old Olympian Ryan Lochte went from 2016 gold medalist to robbery victim to discredited mockery. His fabricated story of being robbed at gun point at a Rio gas station ended earlier this week with four corporate sponsors cutting ties with the athlete.
After their gold-medal relays, Lochte celebrated with fellow U.S. Olympians Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and Jimmy Feigen with a night out in Rio de Janeiro. Around 6 a.m., the quartet was returning to Rio’s Olympic village when they stopped at a nearby gas station to use a bathroom. Intoxicated, one member of the group pulled a sign off the building, drawing the attention of some gas station attendants. They also allegedly vandalized the bathroom.
The Olympians’ initial robbery accusations drew international attention and put Brazil on the defensive about their security at the Olympics. Despite adding beefed-up forces, Brazil’s Olympiad did not go without incident: Two Australian coaches were attacked and robbed by assailants in Ipanema. The American Olympians’ stories, seeking to cover up their own unsportsmanlike conduct, threatened Brazil’s national image.
It is easy to sympathize with the four athletes’ natural impulse to cover up their misdeeds. The whole event may have left them a bit unnerved, being in a tense, confusing situation in a foreign country, with armed guards speaking in another language, possibly with gun drawn. The athletes probably hoped against hope that the nightmare would quietly evaporate in Brazil’s early morning sun. The prospect of worldwide embarrassment, just hours after feeling on top of the world, it’s easy to see how lying sounded like the best way to bury it all.
While many ridicule Lochte for his poor decisions, large ego, and lack of maturity, the Bible deals with characters like him in story after story. In one particularly famous story, David, king of Israel, slept with a soldier’s wife, got her pregnant, then lied to cover it up. More than that, he eventually killed the woman’s husband, Uriah, hoping to keep his own disgrace under wraps. But, like Lochte’s story, David’s lies and murder eventually made headlines.
The story of David’s own incredible failures reminds us of God’s firm discipline and even firmer grace. And it shows us that Ryan Lochte is not too far away for God to reach—and neither are we.
2 Samuel 12:1–12:14
God was not at all pleased with what David had done, and sent Nathan to David. Nathan said to him, “There were two men in the same city—one rich, the other poor. The rich man had huge flocks of sheep, herds of cattle. The poor man had nothing but one little female lamb, which he had bought and raised. It grew up with him and his children as a member of the family. It ate off his plate and drank from his cup and slept on his bed. It was like a daughter to him.
“One day a traveler dropped in on the rich man. He was too stingy to take an animal from his own herds or flocks to make a meal for his visitor, so he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal to set before his guest.”
David exploded in anger. “As surely as God lives,” he said to Nathan, “the man who did this ought to be lynched! He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!”
“You’re the man!” said Nathan. “And here’s what God, the God of Israel, has to say to you: I made you king over Israel. I freed you from the fist of Saul. I gave you your master’s daughter and other wives to have and to hold. I gave you both Israel and Judah. And if that hadn’t been enough, I’d have gladly thrown in much more. So why have you treated the word of God with brazen contempt, doing this great evil? You murdered Uriah the Hittite, then took his wife as your wife. Worse, you killed him with an Ammonite sword! And now, because you treated God with such contempt and took Uriah the Hittite’s wife as your wife, killing and murder will continually plague your family. This is God speaking, remember! I’ll make trouble for you out of your own family. I’ll take your wives from right out in front of you. I’ll give them to some neighbor, and he’ll go to bed with them openly. You did your deed in secret; I’m doing mine with the whole country watching!”
Then David confessed to Nathan, “I’ve sinned against God.”
Nathan pronounced, “Yes, but that’s not the last word. God forgives your sin. You won’t die for it. But because of your blasphemous behavior, the son born to you will die.”