National Rugby League, the NRL, has once again hit the headlines. My footy team is one from two with its key player sidelined by an ACL injury. Two weeks in, talk is already about contracts, while the front and back page headlines are of confession. It is all so very brokenly human.
By way of reflection, two weeks into the NRL season I am struck by the accuracy of Christianity’s critique of all things football - indeed all things life.
Winning and losing is part of life. One we love the other we hate. But it seems it can take just one loss and the punters are writing you off. I am mindful that the punters wrote off Jesus Christ when He was crucified. However, defying human odds, God raised Him from the dead. Life is full of losses but they never have to write you off.
In any part of the season the offer of money, a better contract, trumps loyalty. Indeed, for club or player, loyalty can never be contractual. Loyalty is freely given and an exercise of trust, while contracts are a legal whip to enforce slavish compliance where trust is uncertain. It is not uncommon for people to seek more from the game of life than the game can offer. While Jesus Christ never says, “money is the root of all evil”, it is important to hear what He did say, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” The love of money is a loyalty that can ruin a nation and an individual and it’s a loyalty that can cost you everything.
As for the footballer so it is for us all. Everybody’s body is in breakdown all the time and injury in life is to be expected. While the body is wonderfully prepared by its maker with a capacity to repair itself, to ignore the maker’s instructions is a recipe for darker days of injury. It is surprising how many people know the concept of sin but fail to acknowledge the injuries sustained by it. Perhaps the NRL can help us see that sin is not something to be laughed at or played with. To not be pulled from the field when injured by sin is to allow the injury to get worse. Life is full of sin’s tempting opportunities and betting your whole life on them is not uncommon and nor are the consequences.
If only someone had pulled Tim Simona from the field when sin first injured him perhaps treatment could have been applied. But sin untreated is a recipe for deeper injury. As he confessed to cocaine, gambling and a charity scam, the response was “Banned”, “Deregistered” and players declaring they could never play again with someone who would deceive their team mates. Here is a man on a contract of $325,000 a year at West Tigers and it was not enough. Now that’s just an economic indicator of how sin injures a person. To players and the NRL this is a place of injury from which there is no return.
That last statement is why Christianity is a priority option before the NRL. The Bible says “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” In other words, life is full of losses but they never have to write you off. The love of money may be the root of all evil but the love of God is at the heart of a fresh start. If God removes the likes of a Simona or you or me from the game then we would be wise to think that God is acting to prevent the injuries caused by sin getting worse. The removal may seem harsh, you may think you can play on, but it may just prove to be your salvation. There may be no hope for Simona with the NRL but every hope with God. He offers healing with forgiveness and the promise of a better future. Now that is a great rugby league story and it’s a better life story – all are injured by sin but all can be saved, all can be forgiven, all can know the love of God. Perhaps it’s time to let God be your coach and let him pull you from sin to avoid further injury.
Armidale Anglican Diocese