Though highs in the 80's leave me unconvinced it's actually fall, it's that time of year again when our thoughts turn to football. Even non-football fans have to plan around game days to some extent. And whether it's high school or college or pro, it's football time!As a Tennessee native, I will probably never understand the fascination with yelling OH-IO or the rivalry with Michigan (my team of choice is the UT Vols). However, I can understand the fun and commitment of supporting your team, of sharing the experience with other fans, and even dressing up pretty ridiculously in the process.
Even with all the joys of competition, the rivalries of football, and other sports intrigue me. Though the results are rarely violent, famed rivalries can divide communities, friends, and even households. For our OSU fans, think of your last encounter with a Michigan fan. If it was on game day, there's a chance you were both less than civil, maybe even defensive of the team you so love. If it helps, I'm guilty of it too, when confronted by a University of Florida Gator.
With so many reasons for the season to divide us, my heart and mind turn towards God's call to unity and peace. Yes, football is a silly example for division, but other divisions, of ethnicity, class, gender, age, politics, relationships, or even competitions, are really not so silly. When a division of opinion or support turns into a barrier, in fact it turns into a separation from another child of God, another person God has called us to love.
In Luke 11:17, Jesus says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls." While we can foster competition and differing opinions keep us from becoming stagnant, divisions in anger can topple a kingdom, a village, a team, or a household. So how do we try something different?
Though I never played football, I remember in high school softball getting yelled at by my coach for spending too much time talking to the other team. While I needed to focus on the game, my favorite part of the season was the comraderie and friendship regardless of who won. So that something different? Every person on the other side of the field, or the issue, is still a human being, created in the image of God, and dearly loved. We may never convert a Michigan fan to The Ohio State, but the two can choose to love each other all the same. I invite you, regardless of the team or the sport or the issue, to choose to love as Christ loves, in unity and in peace.