“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
- Matthew 18:6-9
There is a marketing group to provide an organized group of fans to watch the Women’s World Cup (USA games). The name of this marketing group refers to Americans as law breakers, but they are simply fans. I have heard of no incidents where this group did anything other than party when away from the stadium and root for the team inside the stadium. They may not be as organized or as beloved as the orange-clad Dutch people, but they aren’t hooligans either – although their name might suggest it. But what message does that send to our children? To the rest of the world?
Yet, why does breaking the law, even in a name, become attractive to us? And what legacy are were leaving behind. In my tribute to my father on Father’s Day, I said that my Dad would not have approved the running up of the score against Thailand. He loved keeping the zero on the scoreboard for the other team. Defense needs a goal to achieve, but Thailand had a young team. The Thai people are, on average, small. It looked like girls playing against adults. Yet, with each USA goal, the fans in the crowd screamed louder and the team celebrated more elaborately. When Alex Morgan scored her fourth and fifth goals of the game, she seemed to be distracted during the celebration. Maybe she thought that they should slow down a bit. Oddly, she has scored no goals in the two games since.
But the aftermath of that slaughter, was that the team got a reputation of being the bullies of the tournament. I thought we were fighting against bullying in our schools, the cause of so much retaliation violence, but here we place women on a pedestal for making a statement of womanhood. What is the statement? That if you are more of a bully than any man, you can beat up on smaller, less experienced opponents? I have read articles about how the people who have written against their performance are ‘haters of women.’ Nice try. This is not a gender thing, it is a small outcropping of a much bigger problem, the total moral decay of our society in general. And an element of that decay has been in our sports fandom for a long time.
The fans are proudly showing their support for Americans being portrayed as the bad girls of the world. They themselves have been well-behaved – at least nothing newsworthy. The players on the field have toned it down a lot, but then again, their opponents have been better skilled and full sized.
But then, I saw a little of the Sweden-USA pregame coverage. One of the USA stars was interviewed. Two statements changed my view of sports, in general. She said that at four years old, the soccer ball became he god. She became one with the ball.
Wow! As that soaked in, a lifetime of playing sports and watching sports flashed before my eyes. I could have been good at one sport or another if I made the ‘sacrifice.’ Now, I knew what that sacrifice was, my soul. I am not saying that everyone who is good at a sport is destined for hell, but the same sacrifice that I made to become born-again is roughly the same sacrifice as the star athlete. You must be all in. Maybe there is that natural athlete that can praise God all day and practice with intensity at the same time. A few come to mind.
At one point when I worked full time, I watched sports talk shows when I wasn’t watching the games. One of my sons got his love of sports very young. He’ll ask if I caught what so-n-so said on such-n-such program. I simply tell him that basic cable has no sports channels at all, and after two years of not watching them, I ask myself why I ever watched them in the first place? The sports reporting and the athlete’s response in interviews is so cliché that you could almost do both in your head without ever watching the program. One show featured a guy who would get off script often. He was watchable. The rest was careful marketing to get you to watch the games being televised on that network – almost no reporting at all.
Now when football season starts, the television will be tuned to the game, but I will be reading, only looking at the television when the announcer says that the previous play was noteworthy, and they will show a replay. Then again, I might leave the television behind and do some writing. I must ask myself what is important, and I need to be accountable for the time I spend on earth. We have so little of it.
I have written about it before. I do not think there is any competition in Heaven. If you win, it means someone else loses. But in Heaven there are no losers, thus why compete in the first place?
In a weekday Bible study many years ago, the question in the book that we were following asked what changed when you became a Christian. I answered that I had read the Bible multiple times before becoming a Christian, but I gained understanding afterward. This excited me so much that I could not put the book down. One person at the table said that they had never read the Bible and were ten times a better Christian than I ever was. Great! You won, but at what cost?
I did not know that Christianity is a spectator sport. I know that people watch every move that a Christian makes, waiting for the mistake to be made, but I had no idea there was a scoreboard.
I do not need the scoreboard. All I want is for Jesus to say, “Well done, faithful servant.” If I have my wits about me, I will reply, “I need a hug.” – then everything from this world, including the competitions, will all melt away.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.