The World Cup is an amazing event, in which representatives from dozens of countries compete in soccer, the world’s most popular sport, in order to earn the title “best in the world.” That recognition will go down in sports history, and the winning team will be on top of the world until the next World Cup is held in four years.
What lessons can we learn from this event? Consider these ideas:
People can unite around common interests. Of course, national pride is tremendously strong at World Cup time. We all hope our home country wins its next match, if not its group and the entire tournament as well. However, I am amazed how so many millions (and billions!) of people around the world can be “tuned in” to this event, either literally or metaphorically. For all their differences, many of the world’s people have something in common: love of football.
- For Christians to consider: Can you imagine what church would be like if we focused on what we have in common, rather than on what divides us? I am thinking about groups of denominations, individual congregations, and even friends and neighbors. What if we were to “tune in” to our common faith in Jesus Christ and work together for the peaceful expansion of the kingdom of God in this world?
People can become excited about meaningful things. A soccer game is ninety minutes long, and some people find that to be far too long to be interesting. But did you see that goal from thirty meters? that beautiful corner kick? that perfect header? that successful penalty kick? When something takes place that impacts the course of the game, people watch closely and become involved.
- For Christians to consider: We believe that Jesus is the most interesting thing in the universe. But somehow our church gatherings tend to become mundane, routine, and just plain boring – for guests, for young people, and sometimes for well-seasoned adults! What makes our gatherings meaningful for you? How can we best communicate that meaning to others? How are we transformed and energized by our regular encounter with God through corporate worship?
Major problems can be swept under the rug. Surely you have heard about the financial cost incurred by Brazil as they prepared to host this year’s World Cup. You probably have heard complaints from Brazilians that so much money is being spent on a one-time event, but so much need exists and persists in local communities near the new stadium venues. Maybe you know about the working conditions of construction, food-service, and hospitality workers in Brazil. But when the game comes on your TV, do you remember the many issues going on behind the scenes?
- For Christians to consider: Churches are notorious for hiding their problems from everyone – visitors and members alike. We smile at each other on Sunday morning, ask “How are you?” expecting a pleasant response, and mask past conflicts and divisions. We talk behind each other’s backs. We question others’ motives. We find fault and spread it privately. But we shake the hands of visitors and invite them to come back; we pretend to be a united congregation; we hope the pastor (or time) will fix the problems. What if we did not hide our faults but accepted our responsibility for their existence? What if we ran toward Christ together instead of away from conflict separately? What if our gatherings were marked by stark honesty before the Lord, true unity through faith in Jesus, and holiness of conversation by the power of the Holy Spirit?
What do you think?