Two more weeks have come and gone. The quarter is well underway and I have more homework to do than ever before, only, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll do it all. Well, after years of wondering and waiting if it would ever happen to me, I finally have a conversion story. I am proud to admit that I am a fan of European Football, more specifically, of Liverpool Football Club. This is due in large part to the FIFA ’12 game I purchased on the iPad after Christmas this year. A 99cent price tag was enticing enough to give the game other countries call football a try. Admittedly, I never liked it that much, not even during World Cup play. I remember playing it as a kid for the Lombard Park District for one season, and not being all that good. Maybe that’s why I never gave it a real chance, boy have I missed out.
At first it was a way to pass the time a work or to avoid homework. But the more I played the game the more I wanted to play. I decided to start a career mode and chose the only team I knew, Manchester United. After two seasons on the easy level, I was ready for a challenge. Having now been exposed to other teams, I settled on the one whose crest spoke to my heart. Call it what you will, but when I looked at the words across the top of Liverpool’s crest, I knew I found the team I’d root for, the team that is now my own.
You’ll Never Walk Alone. A song from a long forgotten musical has been the anthem of a club nearly a quarter of the way around the world from where I live. My curiosity grew and the more I looked in to the history of the club the more amazed I became. Not only had I found a new love for a game I once hated, I was finding out part of the story that, beyond the accolades, is one of triumph over adversity, especially for the fans. What I am referring to is the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 when 96 fans lost their lives. On that day the authorities failed to do their job both in controlling who entered where, and, in the aftermath of the devastating crushes, caring for the injured. Justice has never been done.
But on that day those fans broke down signs and used them as stretchers. Those with medical training used it on the man or woman next to them. People helped people escape, not because they were fellow Liverpool fans, but because of the character ingrained in every one of them. The same character which is embodied on their crest in four small words: You’ll Never Walk Alone. Needless to say I’m hooked. My transformation became complete this week when a package arrived for me bearing Liverpool FC paraphernalia.
But lest you think all I have done these last few weeks is play a game on my iPad and drool over a new obsession, I also succumbed to the arguments which circled the famous video entitled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” often shortened to Jesus>Religion. When I first saw the video my thoughts weren’t warm and my words were less than kind. The firestorm it created served only to further my opposition to it. Whoever this guy was, he was arrogance and ignorance veiled in humility and relevance and I couldn’t stand it. Apparently I wasn’t alone as the several video responses attest to that fact.
Two video responses which seemed to be the most watched are from a Lutheran pastor and a Catholic priest. While some claim the Lutheran one is arrogant and annoying, I think it is actually the better of the two. Why? Not simply because I agree with the position and articulation of the pastor, but because it exposes the original one for what it is. The first video is as, if not more, arrogant than the response, only it doesn’t seem so because it paints a picture people want to express. A point of view similar to one I have expressed at various times. But here is the problem, it isn’t completely fair and honest. It picks and chooses. It paints the picture it wants to paint.
Nevertheless, he is being honest about one thing, something problematic within not only Christianity, but humanity. He is talking about the complete and utter brokenness and inability of people to care for one another. In a word, sin. Nothing demonstrates more man’s inability to be humble toward one another than the fact that I am writing about a video that caused so much controversy. Look at the number of denominations and it doesn’t take long to figure out that Christians have a problem with sin. Look at the world and it doesn’t take long to figure out that everyone has the same problem. The question is, how are we going to deal with it.
The video produced another response, this time from a Muslim. This one I feel to be the most problematic, simply because I disagree with the picture it paints. That is not to say I am angry or bigoted toward the Islamic faith. However, this response demonstrates the reality that everyone has an opinion on something, rather, on someone. Some say he didn’t exist at all. Some say he was just a man. Others that he was a great teacher and that he pointed others to knowledge of a greater reality. Still others suggest he had feelings one way or another on certain subjects. But what about you, who do you say that he is? The He I am referring to is Jesus the Christ, and the way you answer that question has a direct impact on how you answer the one posed in the previous paragraph.
In the book of Matthew there is a story of Jesus asking his disciples who they think he is. Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This claim sets the stage for everything else that follows, not only in the chapter, but in the narrative itself. What separates Christianity is how it answers the question of who Christ is. Some say it is love, but love is found everywhere. Some say that it is hope, but hope is always to be found. Some say it is morality, but often it is those who supposed have no external moral guide are the ones who prove the most moral. It is not an action, an idea, or a standard of living which separates Christianity, it is Christ Himself.
So then, how do we deal with the fact that the world is broken as a people who confess with Peter that Jesus is the Christ? We don’t, He does. The problem with all those videos is that they place upon Christ mantles which may or may not belong. I’m not one to tell you how or what Jesus thinks, but I can tell you what I believe he did. I can tell you what the scriptures testify to him doing, but I cannot believe it on your behalf or turn it into something I want it to be. Sin is dealt with not by us loving one another better, but by the blood shed on our behalf. Sin doesn’t lose if we learn to bring hope to the darkest places, it lost because he broke through the grave. Sin doesn’t go away because I’ve done better today than yesterday, it is eradicated because His righteousness has been exchanged for humanities brokenness.
This Christ, the one who took on sin, death, and the power of the devil, He is alive. He is inside those broken people who fail to feed the poor. He is inside those people who corrupt the church and turn her into something she was never meant to be. He is inside those who care deeply in thought and action for those in greatest of need. He is inside those who comfort those who mourn and visit those who are sick. He is inside sinner and saint. He walks alongside empowering people to be more than they ever thought they could, and picking up those who fall to the deepest depths. This is what it means to follow Him. To recognize that this side of eternity things will always be good and bad. That following him doesn’t mean we will get it right, as if that were even possible. It’s not black and white like supporting a football team or joining a club. Following Christ is not about those who follow, it is about the one who leads. It is not that we would be perfect, but that we would never walk alone.