Lance Armstrong is in the news again. It’s not for winning a race, being accused of cheating, denying that he cheated or being stripped of his wins because he cheated. It’s not even because he is raising millions for cancer research. He is in the news because he is finally admitting he did, in fact, use steroids.
If you are not familiar with his story it goes something like this. In 1996, Armstrong announced he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. The cancer spread to his lungs and brain. The diagnosis left little room for hope, but Armstrong fought. He beat cancer. He returned to racing and won the Tour de France a record seven times. He used the notoriety gained from his wins to start the Livestrong Foundation and helped raise nearly 500 million dollars for cancer research.
But while he was winning races and raising money, there were whispers of cheating. He denied the allegations vigorously. Teammates, employees and close friends outed his PED (Performance Enhancing Drug) use, and he fought back. He and his associates bullied, ridiculed, slandered and in some cases ruined the financial lives of those who had the courage to speak up. (Here is an interesting read detailing a few of his tactics.)
Now Armstrong has apologized. I wonder if he will point to the genuine good done by the Livestrong Foundation as an excuse for his behavior. This raises a question; do the ends justify the means? Many have benefited from the Foundation in their fights against cancer. Does it matter that its founder was a cheater? Does it matter that he used his incredible influence to attack and destroy those who told the truth? It absolutely matters.
The ends do not justify the means, because the end cannot be separated from the means. From God’s perspective, the end is not what we do. The end is who we are. God is far less concerned with what we do than with who we are becoming. Forgive me in advance for this overstatement. God doesn’t care that Lance Armstrong helped to raise $500 million for cancer research. God cares about the person Lance Armstrong is becoming. The same is true of us. God cares far less about what you do than who you are becoming. The journey matters.
Who we are is not determined by what we do, it is determined by how we do it. Or to put it another way what we do flows from who we are and how we do things is a window into who we are. Not only do the ends not justify the means, it turns out the means are more important than the ends.
This doesn’t undo the invaluable benefit many have received from the Livestrong Foundation. It simply means we serve an amazing God. Our God is so incredible that he can bring good out of even the most dire and despicable situations. And that should give all of us, including those of us who have lied, cheated and bullied, great comfort.