Here are some thoughts on the nature and power of the Holy Spirit.
When you go to a sporting event of some type today, you might see someone holding up a card with a reference to a Bible verse (such as John 3: 16 or Luke 23: 34) that challenge the observer. Or a player may acknowledge God in some manner when he or she makes an outstanding play, hits a home run, or scores a touchdown.
But I remember one display in 1968 that speaks to the power of the Holy Spirit and its ability to change the path of history. Only there were no signs with Bible references nor where the players kneeling in prayer. Oh, two of the players involved in this display had their heads bowed but for a different reason than in reverence to the Lord.
It was during the 200-meter medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The three individuals were Tommie Smith from the United States, who had won the 200 meter race and received the gold medal, Peter Norman from Australia, who had finished 2nd and won the silver medal, and John Carlos from the United States, who had finished third and received the bronze medal (I first spoke about this in 2008, see “Which Way Will You Go?”
Look carefully at the photo of the moment when the national anthem for the United States began to play.
Gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race at the 1968 Summer Olympics; both wear Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. Peter Norman (silver medalist, left) from Australia also wears an OPHR badge in solidarity to Smith and Carlos.
You will notice that Carlos and Smith are each wearing one glove. When they planned this protest, they had planned to both wear gloves but John Carlos had left his pair behind. It was Peter Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos each wear one glove.
So why would an individual from Australia join two individuals from America in a protest for Human Rights? Because Peter Norman was a child raised in the ways of the Salvation Army, an off-shoot of the 19th century Methodist Church. And while he may have disagreed with some of the precepts of the Salvation Army (such as competing on the Sabbath), he understood what it meant to be a Christian. It has been written that Carlos and Smith asked Norman if he believed in human rights, which he said he did. They asked if he believed in God and Norman replied, quite naturally, that he strongly believed in God. And Norman told the duo that he would stay with them in their protest. Carlos said that he expected to see fear in Peter Norman’s eyes but instead saw love.
Paul wrote to Timothy at the end of his career saying that he had run the good race and kept the faith. And in the end, that was all that mattered. So too would it be for Peter Norman. He would tell you that he knew Christ from almost the first day of his life. And he probably understood that following Christ is not always easy. But there are times when you must show the presence of Christ in one’s life and that is what Peter Norman did that October evening in 1968. Powered by the Holy Spirit, which was, as Carlos and Smith found out, part of his life, Peter Norman with his compatriots to stand against injustice and intolerance.
The only sign you need to carry is the one that shows Christ in your life and you carry that sign through your thoughts, your actions, and your words.