Lance Armstrong is the epitome of a head scratcher.
On one hand, you have a disgraced global ambassador for the sport of cycling. Armstrong built his career around the image of being the one clean racer in a sport filled with cheaters. That house of cards has crumbled in recently, especially with Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and his admission, yesterday, that he used performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong also aggressively pursued anyone, from competitors to employees and friends, who tried to expose the light on his drug usage.
Then there is the other side of Armstrong. The side we want to celebrate. It is the side of a cancer survivor who created the Livestrong Foundation, which has raised millions in cancer research. It is the story of a man who is an inspirational figure for thousands who live each day with cancer, either personally or through a loved one.
Armstrong is not the first celebrity or athlete to have a complex story. Ty Cobb was a great hitter, but a man of questionable ethics. Tiger Woods will go down as one of the greatest golfers of all time, but his life and career crumbled when he admitted to multiple affairs. Mike Tyson was a great boxer, but his personal life made you forget his skills in the ring.
Armstrong might be the most complex of them all. A man identified with cancer research and perseverance in times of difficult is also a man identified as a cheater and someone who was willing to destroy others to save himself. For all the good Armstrong has done there is an equal amount of wrong decisions that make us question his character.
So, who is Lance Armstrong?
That is the question we are all asking today. We do not have to wait for the Oprah Winfrey interview to be televised to come up with an answer. Lance Armstrong is just like us. He is a person capable of doing tremendous good and tremendous evil.
This makes him a great ethical study. When faced with moral decisions, do the means (our acts) justify the ends?
Don’t get me wrong, I find what Armstrong did a sin and wrong. It is sinful the way Armstrong abused others and lied to people to protect his image. But, I believe we have more in common with Armstrong than what we might believe or want to admit.
We are not just identified to him as fans or admirers, but as people who must make moral decisions in our jobs and at home. Each day we find ourselves wrestling with our actions and the end results wondering if we made the right choices. While we may never know the pressure of competing in a sport where cheating is rampant, we each know the daily pressures of our jobs and what is expected of us. So, the question becomes posed as much to us as it is being posed to Armstrong.
When we do things that are morally wrong but our acts lead to results we can all support, are we justified in making the decision that we did?
It is a question that gets to the heart of what it means to live out our callings as followers of Christ. Our lives are to be a reflection of the character and love of our Lord. This doesn’t mean we are perfect everyday, but that we are striving toward reflecting the life of Christ in our lives each day.
Our desire to live for Christ calls us to reflect on our actions and the choices we make. The decisions we make may not always be the morally correct one, even if it leads a result that is honorable. I cannot steal from my neighbor, for instance, to feed and clothe a hungry person. I cannot lie to my boss even if it means that I get a promotion that would offer financial stability for my family.
Each day we are faced with moral questions about what it means to follow in Christ’s footsteps and live in this world. To be honest, we are not always going to make the right choices. I include myself in that. However, our hope is that we live each day with the desire to live for Christ, to make the right choices, and to be obedient to God’s desires and love for us.