|not Peyton's team...but it sure looked like this
I need to tell you about Peyton’s soccer game yesterday.
You see, I’m the coach for her team of 6 four-and-five-year-olds, so as you might imagine, you never know what might happen at practice and games—good, bad, ugly, or funny—and yesterday was no different. From kids scoring in the wrong goal to the egregious use of hands, from little boys missing minutes of action while watching airplanes overhead to little girls saying ‘excuse me, coach’ at inopportune times to alert me that they just saw a bee, little kid soccer never lacks for entertainment.
But yesterday’s game had less ‘fun’ and more ‘ugly’ than usual. It got out of control in a hurry. And by the end of the game there had been elbows thrown, t-shirts pulled, kids injured, and full-throated screaming in faces. Not good.
The other team was just really dirty. They had one little girl—their fastest and most-skilled player—who was rough and intense and generally ran around the field with her elbows out and her mean face on. She pushed opponents, pulled jerseys, and wreaked havoc on the game, and that attitude filtered down to the rest of her teammates—so much so that I spent most of the game reminding kids to stop pushing, keep their arms down, and play safely.
And unfortunately, after a while, I had to start reminding my own team of that too. Because it took a toll on them, and these four and five year olds were struggling to let it go, not retaliate, and focus on playing soccer. No matter how many times I urged them to play the right way and not succumb to the same dirty tactics being used against them, it was awfully hard for these little ones to resist retaliation.
And, of course...because even as adults we don’t do this well. When we are wronged, our primary instinct is too-often revenge. When we get hurt, our first thought is usually to hurt back. No one likes being pushed around. We all want things to be fair and just. Everyone hates a bully.
So, we fall prey to the same behavior we despise in others, and in doing so, we neglect the call of Jesus to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, and give the shirt off our back. When we trade blow-for-blow, we ignore the challenging task of loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. Central to following Christ is the need to forgive—to offer mercy as we have been offered mercy—yet we struggle so mightily with this basic instruction of discipleship.
In a world that justifies and glorifies bitterness, revenge, and the myth of redemptive violence, may we be people who choose forgiveness and peace as the path to new life. May our Jesus-centered lives transcend and transform our world by beckoning it forward into a new way of engaging our enemies. And in the challenging moments where we are seduced by violence and enticed by retaliation, may we learn to hear the peaceful encouragement of God’s voice—our discipleship coach beckoning us to metaphorically (or sometimes literally) ‘stop pushing, keep our arms down, and play safely.”
May we allow the Prince of Peace to lead us into being peaceful people in warring world.