Friendship at a Cost – Part Eleven

“Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.   I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”  (I Corinthians 9: 24 – 27)

In 1936 Adolf Hitler had the perfect stage to show the world the superiority of the Aryan Race, the Berlin Olympics.

In those days of competition American Jesse Owens, the son of an Alabama sharecropper, won four gold medals. A climatic moment came when Luz Long, the German record holder in the long jump and Owens faced off. Owens’ first jump was disallowed. On his second jump he scratched. He was unsettled with only one jump remaining. He needed a jump of 23-and-a half-feet to qualify. In a great gesture of friendship Long came to Owens and suggested he change his mark and take off one foot before the foul mark to avoid fouling and being disqualified. Owens did and jumped 25 feet for a new Olympic record to defeat Long and win the Olympic Gold. Long, who finished second, was the first to congratulate Owens.

Hitler and the predominantly German crowd were amazed when Long and Owens walked around the tract arm in arm. Their friendship was a lasting one, proving  friendship can be forged enabling people to be friends across gender, race and nationalities, even in the toughest circumstances. 

Owens said in light of the hostile environment, “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me.”

Long stated, “That hour in Berlin when I first spoke to you, when you had your knee upon the ground, I knew that you were in prayer.”

Long continued, “This is what I have to tell you, Jesse, I think I might believe in God and I pray to him….”

Long, like all German youths, was forced into the army in World War II. He was killed in the Battle of St. Pietro. Shortly before his death, which he perceived was at hand, Long wrote Owens an affectionate letter stating, “My heart tells me, if I be honest with you, that this is the last letter I shall ever write. If it is so, I ask you something. It is something very important to me. It is you go to Germany when this war is done, someday find my Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war. I am saying – tell him how things can be between men on this earth.

Long signed the letter, “Your brother, Luz.” That is how things can be between people on earth.

When people can in faith pray, “Our Father which is in heaven,” there can be a bond that transcends differences. The long sought after brotherhood of man is only possible under the Fatherhood of God.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3: 12 – 14)