Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What the Packers and Seahawks teach us about grace

For those who opted to stay up late to watch the Monday Night Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks game, you were rewarded with perhaps the worst call since the infamous Bert Immanuel catch (#5 on the NFL's most controversial calls,which mind you, prompted a rule change; the "tuck rule" was never amended after Tom Brady's fumble that wasn't). 

If you didn't see it, Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings came down with the final pass of the game in his hands. Seahawks receiver Golden Tate had one hand on the ball but was rewarded with the game winning catch. Things got so bad that some packers considered drastic measures like kneeling down every play until the replacement refs are sent back to the high school and Pop Warner fields from whence they came. 

To make matters worse, Golden Tate blatantly shoves down another defensive player, completely taking him out of the play. That is called "offensive pass interference" in most people's "books," though admittedly is rarely called at the end of games.

So Golden Tate was rewarded with the touchdown, even though someone else secured that possession for him. Tate received something good, because of the work of someone else. He received the fruit and credit for the labor of another.

Not only that, but he clearly disqualified himself by pushing down another defender in order to try and secure possession of something that was clearly out of reach. He should have received a penalty. Instead he is rewarded and blessed.

Does this sound like something that has happened before? It should.

It's the gospel. It's grace. Getting something good when you deserve something bad. Getting something good because the real winner chose to lose and take the bad for you.

Philippians 3:9

"....and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith..."

 Colossians 2:13-14
   13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 
The Seahawks clearly were the recipients of grace in some form.

In a Jim Rome interview, one player felt particularly angered. But anger boiled up in this man not primarily because of the bad call, but because of the Seahawks disdaining the grace bestowed upon them. Instead of owing the victory to grace, several Seahawks claimed that this was simply the result of hard work, dedication, and drive.

Quarterback Russell Wilson claimed someone "made a play." Coach Pete Caroll affirmed that it was the right call. Golden Tate wouldn't fess up to his shoving the other defensive back to the ground.

That's what angered this player so much. Taking credit for something it is clearly grace.

A few thoughts:

1.) Grace does make people mad, particularly those who think they've earned something. The older brother in the Prodigal Son story was angered by grace. He didn't get anything good despite how "good" he thought he'd been. If you believe grace, preach grace, show grace, you will make people angry. If you tell them that they need grace, or still need grace, you will make people mad. We're a messed up bunch, but we don't like to hear that!

2.) On the same note ("G" for Grace), when you recognize your own need for grace, folks will find something offensive, much more attractive. It would have done much to disarm the situation if several Seahawks simply said, "Yep, we were given a gift tonight." Grace was offensive, but it would have disarmed a lot of angry people to admit they needed it. If we preach grace to "people like you, people that really need it, people like _____," then we will inevitably get an angry "You think you're better than me?" But if grace is for people like "us," well then, that goes a long way. It's good theology as well. Romans 3:23.

3.) We ought to get as upset with ourselves as the Pack did with the Seahawks when the latter denied the grace that had been shown to them. It made me sick to see how much credit Seattle took for their victory. Does it bother us as much when we forget that any spiritual victory is the work of Christ in us? It's His work in us that we celebrate. He has taken possession of salvation for us and now puts the "ball" in our hands. Only we rejoice with Him who has taken possession of what we could never hope to possess.

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