Long after my retirement from weekend afternoon football games in the park (see last week’s post), the NFL initiated a rule that allowed instant replay to challenge officials’ rulings on the field. The instant replay was first used to review a play during the regular season on September 7, 1986. Now, the “coach’s challenge” is a strategic part of the game and there are pages of rules related to how it works. (Aren’t there always pages and pages of rules!)
Today’s post is another reflection on life through the lens of football season. I’m thinking about how we, as followers of Jesus, should respond to the “bad calls” of life. I’m not talking about our own mistakes and sins, I’m talking about the things in the “game” (the culture in which we live) that happen to us. How do we, either as individuals or as a group, challenge the “bad calls” that are made around us?
I am going to leave it up to you, the reader, to define what the “bad calls” are. I’m just going to talk about principles for our use of the challenge.
- Sometimes we have to challenge for the sake of our team’s best interests and for the integrity of the game. Some “bad calls” are so egregious that a challenge is required. We can’t always be silent and just “take it.” Sometimes the potential for damage to society requires that we do something to create a pause in the action so that a dialogue can take place.
- How we respond after the challenge is crucial. Whether we win or lose the challenge, the game goes on. Neither gloating nor taunting is appropriate after we win a challenge. Neither pouting, whining, nor quitting are appropriate after we lose a challenge. Pauses cannot go on indefinitely. Either way, we gear up and get back to living with the consequences.
- We have a limited number of challenges, so use them wisely. Once a coach uses up his allotted challenges, he can throw the little red flag as often as he likes, but the officials will ignore the challenges and possibly assess a penalty. Like the little boy who cried wolf or like Chicken Little who told everyone the sky was falling, the person or group who challenges everything will soon be ignored and will lose the opportunity to participate in future dialogue.
- The most important challenge we will ever make is to challenge our own motivations. 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4: “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”
Our lives matter so much to God that He gives us resources (His word and His Spirit) beyond our own opinions and preferences to equip us to effectively play the game of life.
Question: What “bad calls” are particularly heavy on your heart today? How will you respond? Who is on your team to help you respond wisely?