Letting go of Offenses from 2016
There are very few sports events I’ve ever cared about, and when there’s an exception, it’s a big deal. The last time it happened to me was in 2001.
I was attending law school in Oxford, Mississippi, where the official religion is a mix of Protestant Christianity and Ole Miss football. The Rebels were playing the Arkansas Razorbacks and I was bored on a Saturday night, so I watched the game with my elderly landlady. Although the game was initially a dud, it started heating up, so I figured I should cheer for somebody. I flippantly decided to go with Arkansas since I was born there.
As it turns out, the game actually went into seven overtimes and Arkansas won by two points. For whatever reason, I was really pumped about it.
Fumbling the Ball
The next day in my adult Sunday school class, I was the first one there, and then this Ole Miss student walked in with his girlfriend. We were becoming friends at the time, which was kind of nice because I studied way too much to have many of those back then. But then I made the fateful move that ruined everything: I did the Arkansas Razorback cheer.
“Wooooo pig sooie!” I exclaimed, waiting for a chuckle in return. The guy and his girlfriend glanced over at me, sat down with a sour look on their faces, and didn’t even respond. Awkward.
When I saw him after that, he was notably less friendly and I’m still convinced it was over that damnable pig cheer. If so, that’s really too bad, because I was needing some friends back then, and I’d hate to think the rift was over something so insignificant. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened though.
If you’ve been on social media in the past year, particularly Facebook, you’ve got a mental list of folks who lost your respect during the various news events of the year (election 2016, anyone?). While claiming to be genuine Christians, they wrote rude status updates and tweets, posted way too many articles supporting their offensive views, and generally just did their best to make you and yours look like immoral losers.
I get it, I really do — it was annoying and, frankly, I’ve got a few people who grated on me too. So now that we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve got to seriously ask what it’s going to look like for us to “[m]ake every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). While I wish Scripture weren’t so direct about this, here’s what we’ve got: We must “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13).
We’re called to bear with people. Forgive them. Let go of complaints. Love people like Jesus loves us. And one practical way we can do that as fellow believers is to declare the cleansing blood of Jesus over all the careless words of last year and all the careless words that are coming in this one. I mean, seriously, we’re talking about the people we’re going to be spending the rest of eternity with — so for Christ’s sake, you’d think we can let go of our fleeting offenses that hardly even matter now.