Last night’s Superbowl left me feeling disappointed and disturbed for many reasons, and this morning I’ve been mulling those reasons over. I had high hopes for the match-up between the Seahawks and the Broncos. If you know me at all you know I don’t like the Broncos at all but they had played well all season and I saw no reason to suspect that they simply wouldn’t show up to play in the big game. So that was disappointing. In America we’ve come to expect awesome, mind-blowing commercials in the Superbowl, and although most of the ones I saw last night left me feeling confused, my mind was definitely intact. We’ve also come to expect lame half-time shows, and I think Bruno Mars impressed everyone. So it was definitely a night that, in many ways, did not fulfill my expectations. But what upset me the most was the behavior, both online and in person, of many Americans.
We had a small party at our house with good food and good friends, people who I spend a lot of time with, and who I enjoy spending time with. And yet, several times I felt compelled to defend our nation, the entertainment, the teams, and even the commercials in the face of vicious, hateful comments from my friends. I have no doubt that I was guilty of some unfiltered comments as well. The spewing of hate has continued this morning on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m thinking it won’t end anytime soon. Last night it was made painfully clear to me that in America we have fostered a culture of hate. Witty, sarcastic comments are applauded as being clever, and it’s not a long leap from being sarcastic to being spiteful, and then it’s another short hop from spiteful to hateful and just plain mean. I have often participated in it, and now I’m feeling really uncomfortable about it.
Why do we hate people who are different? We live in a large nation with millions of people from diverse countries, cultures, backgrounds, and belief. America’s diversity is one of its defining characteristics. It’s what makes Americans uniquely Americans. Honestly, it’s one of the things I love about this nation. I’m not saying I agree with all of it, but I can appreciate it. I live by a very strong moral code and a worldview that espouses the idea of absolute truth. I disagree with many people about many topics, and yeah, there are people, organizations, political entities, and sports teams that I don’t like, but spewing hate and condemnation isn’t going to do anyone any good.
I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately. I even tried posting about it, but it’s such a huge concept that I simply can’t boil it down into a few words for a blog post. I am convicted by the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44, “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” I can be so critical of others, but if I’m claiming to follow Jesus, I can’t ignore these words. My husband (and pastor) has frequently pointed out the idea from John 3:17 that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. We are simply too good at condemning ourselves through our words, our social media rants, and our behavior toward our friends, our enemies, and people we don’t even know. We are surrounded by proof that hate, depravity, selfishness, arrogance, and more ugly things dwell at the heart of the human condition. We all fail frequently, publicly, and privately. And yet, God in His grace can and will forgive us and set us free from all of that if we ask Him. It’s telling to me that the best picture of grace I saw last night was not from my group of Christian friends but on the show Sherlock (I would elaborate but I despise spoilers). My message to my Christian friends? We need to be more aware of what we’re doing, and of the image of Christ that we are displaying to the world. And to my non-Christian friends: I’m sorry. I fail. I’m not perfect, I’ve never claimed to be, but my God is, and He is the only reason there is any good in me.
I consciously seek to live a life that honors Christ by upholding a certain standard of behavior, but I am aware every day of my need for His intervention in order to be able to live that life. Left to myself, I would be a mean, angry, horrible person. I am often tempted by all sorts of things, and by the power of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life I can usually resist those temptations, but I often fail. And if I fail, how can I condemn others for failing, too? It’s not right and it’s not fair. Can we admit we’ve been wrong, and let God fix this in us?
“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 4:5-9