It’s just a game, right? I mean, to be truthful, games are meant for our enjoyment and entertainment; we watch, we eat, we fellowship, we partake in letting the referees know when they make mistakes. It’s not like we take these things seriously. It doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s just a game…
Or is it?
What begins as spectating quickly turns into reckless passion. People at sporting events boo one another for the color of their shirts. Fans in parking lots across America have been known to start fights, vandalize opponent’s property, and disparage their fellow human’s allegiance to a certain team within the sport. And that’s not even the worst part. No, the worst part of all of these actions (when thinking of collegiate athletes in particular) is the amount of strain and expectation we place upon our young people. Boos and slurs are thrown at these kids; Monday morning talking-heads break down every mistake for the world to see; campus’ become places of utter ruin for ‘losers’ of the previous match, game, or meet. And we’re ‘ok’ with it. It’s just the way things are…
But should we be; and am I still talking about just a game?
The truth of the matter is this: sports, art, literature, music…CHURCH… All these are simply microcosms of life. We choose something we love, invest in it fully, and then set the world on fire if it disagrees with us. We go so far in our fandom of whatever it is that we love (again, not just sports, but think of your favorite hobby/pastime) that we turn on one another in the name of a human construct.
Church can be like this. I like to think ours isn’t, but I am biased. What starts as faith in Christ turns into, “WE do it the ‘right’ way; those other people (insert denomination or religion) are (insert negative) and I’m glad I’m an Episcopalian. Think about the analogy. We come together, we watch (the procession, the sermon), we fellowship (coffee or class before service), we eat (communion and coffee hour), and we partake in letting the leadership know when they make mistakes (a reader, an altar guilder, a youth rep, a music minister/choir member, clergy, or other people sitting next to us in worship). But that’s not the even the worst part. No, the worst part of all of this is the lessons we’re teaching our kids. We’re basically saying, “It’s alright to belittle others in the name of the Lord”, or, “It’s alright to point out the faults in others to make our own losses feel lighter.”
I wonder what message that sends to the next generation. We complain about the way of the world and yet it is us, all of us, that set the standard for the future. Will our kids see places of worship as another ‘game’ in which they’re supposed to pick a ‘team’ and begin their reckless passion? Or will we stop here, now, and turn our attention back to why we started coming together in the first place: The love of sports for the first analogy, the love of God for the point. Teams matter. But not to divide us. Teams make people come together with a common goal; teams work together to achieve greatness—true greatness, not just ‘winning’. And we definitely don’t want our houses of worship to become unsafe havens for those who will sometimes, inevitably, ‘lose’ in life. What I’m trying to say (while also holding onto an analogy that lessens my own disappointment from a loss) is that we can learn from our behaviors. We can set up the people that follow us for success, teaching them to love in loss, speak kindly to opposition, and playfully compete while all moving toward the same goal: Eternal life. I want our community to be one for the ages; that ‘team’ that shocked the world, the Cinderella story that shouldn’t have been able to achieve greatness but refused to be cast aside in the name of current popularity. Because no matter how big we get, how many people we have here, the true metric of our success isn’t measured in these things. Just like sports, it isn’t whether we ‘win’ or ‘lose’, but how we live our community life together. The only thing that matters in this life is love. The rest?
Well, it’s just a game…