Manute Bol, little Christ

I don’t know how devout Manute Bol (1962-2010) was, but I understand he was a Christian. His actions in his adult life exemplify my understanding of the Christian life. According to St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians, Christ gave up his riches and his life for those he loved. He also, according to the Gospels, gave up his dignity by undergoing embarrassment and dying on a tree, a sign of being cursed in the Torah.

Bol, though not a terribly successful basketball player, gained wealth unheard of in his native Sudan. He then proceeded to give it all away to help those he loved back home, even in a helpless state like those in Darfur. But going bankrupt is not unusual in the world of sports. He also underwent undignified activities like celebrity boxing and attempting to play ice hockey. People laughed and ridiculed him. He could have yelled “are you entertained?!” But rather than other stars who do silly things to pay off debts, Bol gave his money away for a more serious cause.

I really admired the man and am sorry to see him die so young–and of a disease that he contracted by exposing himself to the filth that pollutes Sudan. When Paul writes of Christ emptying himself, he also describes Christ giving himself up to live with the people he loved. He didn’t just provide wealth for his people, he went to be with them and sacrificed himself in their presence. Bol lived in the U.S. only to make money to take with himself back in Sudan. I truly believe that Bol lived his life as Christ asked him to.

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