Few people will believe this, but I went to the grocery store in the middle of the Super Bowl.
By the way, if you’re looking for crowd-free shopping, the Super Bowl is a perfect time for it. And with DVR these days, nothing really stands in your way here.
Part of my reason for going was that I, like some other people, just did not care who won. I do not like anything about the Seattle Seahawks and their “12th Man” handkerchiefs (which is yet another rip-off of the only original and true fan towel). 12 is exactly the number of fans Seattle had until two years ago.
The New England Patriots? Please. I just hope they confiscated their video cameras as they came into the stadium and replaced them with air pumps. Who really needs to hear more about how Tom Brady is actually the Pope in disguise AND the “Greatest Quarterback Ever?” (Okay, the quarterback part happens to be true…but that does not mean I have to like it).
Then it occurred to me why I had zero interest in watching this game, save for a very exciting last 5 minutes. I despise both of the teams playing almost as much as I like my own team. Yes, I want the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl every year, but I want just as much for certain other teams to not win. So many times, I catch myself saying, “Well, if Pittsburgh doesn’t win it, then I hope _________ doesn’t.”
(As if you could not guess, Baltimore is at the very top of the fill-in-the-blank list).
I began to think about this attitude, this spite for other teams that nearly exceeds my fan-dom for “my” team. Funny how we use that term “my” in reference to sports teams, even if we never attended the college, lived in the city, or actually put on a uniform.
It then occurred to me that my attitude towards the NFL may be far too reflective of the Christian life. This is not some deep theology blog, but rather a simple observation of how sports can imitate life, even in the religious realm.
We often allow ourselves to be defined more by what we hate than by how we love, by our spite rather than our compassion. It is always easier to rally people to be against something than it is to persuade them to be for something. Believers–and sometimes their preachers–lean towards this tendency at an alarming rate.
Christianity is devolving towards defining itself by what it hates more than by what it lifts up. We cannot disagree without being profoundly disagreeable. We choose our sides and go to war, well beyond any of the typical labels of liberal vs. conservative. It is the progressives vs. fundamentalists, traditional vs. contemporary, Calvinist vs. Arminian, complementarian vs. egalitarian.
And round and round we go…and this is just the short list. Is it possible that we want others to be wrong just as much–or more–than we want to be right in Jesus Christ?
Think about some of the things that we read and write and say among believers. We refuse to simply argue our point of view. Instead, we think in terms of systematically destroying any opposing point of view. We want all to know Jesus Christ and His sacrificial love, so long as they view him and that love through our particular theological prism.
These disputes are not reserved to debates between Ken Ham and Bill Nye. The blogs and Twitter wars and sickening comment sections filter down to the grassroots level of the church. We battle for our way and our point of view to win out, and we are willing to cut into our brothers and sisters in the pew in order to keep things going our way.
Disagreements, debates, and even arguments over positions and approaches to Christian faith are inevitable. And we sometimes need to open a critical eye to analyze the impact of certain actions and situation. If our analysis and critical thought turn to a desire to defeat others rather than exemplify Christ, we put ourselves into an extremely unhealthy place.
I cannot enjoy certain football games because of my spite for the teams involved, and that is a problem. If we are so spiteful towards one another that we have to separate into our own little theological clubs and fraternities and sororities–where everyone must agree–then we have a much more serious issue than football on our hands. Because we are spiritually sick.
If our desire to be right is so powerful that we cut off members of the Body of Christ, then we as believers need to consider: Are we for Christ, or are we against others? Do we truly desire to elaborate the love of Jesus, or do we just want to be right? God is not to be used as our personal gatekeeper to decide who is in and out of the club.
Let us not be foolish enough to think that we can simply all just get along. But let us also not be foolish enough to see that our differences can cut us off, from one another and from Christ.
It is not about being right, but about God being right. We practice this by recognizing that we are not God, no matter how right we think we are. We practice this by following the words of Paul: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Not one word is included about winners, losers, or hating those that disagree with us. It is bad enough to hate a football team. When we begin hate other Christians because they disagree with us, we have to ask ourselves if we want to be right more than we want to follow Jesus.
And perhaps we should ask if we really know Him at all.