My college roommate, an international student from Brazil, was a huge soccer fan. As for me, a semi-rednecked country boy from Savannah, TN, I didn’t really get the concept of a bunch of guys prancing around for 90 minutes with the final score a whopping 1-1. Eventually I got older and became introduced to the sport through directing Upward Youth Sports Programs. I grew to love the fast pace, simplicity, and joy so obvious in the kids while playing. Now that we have our own children, we love to watch them play this great game. Brodie, our son, has the ability (due to great coaching -thanks JFC Wolves!) to gracefully and majestically maneuver this round ball of leather with his feet in a way that just amazes.
Now that I have gloated, I really wanted to put our attention on the referee of the game. The referee carries in his back pocket two cards. One red and one yellow. A yellow card is given for un-sportsmanship play or other minor infractions and the player is allowed to continue in the game. The red card is given for major fouls, spitting, using excessive force or other major infractions. When a red card is given, the player is immediately dismissed from the game and the team has to finish the game with one fewer player. In some leagues, a red card also results in suspension for one or two games.
God has the ability to forgive our sins and spread them as far as the east is to the west. God keeps no records of wrongs because of His infinite measure of grace, but I, due to my human nature, do not have that capability. You see there are plenty of people whom have intentionally or unintentionally caused harm to me or to those whom I love and I can’t seem to forget those things. The remembrance of what so-and-so did is crushed into my memory bank like it happened just yesterday and I can’t seem to shake off the memory.
I’ve heard it said, “Forgiveness is not forgetting the act, but forgetting the pain.” I can choose to look past the pain and the hurt and decide to love them as Christ would love us. Another way to say this, “Forgiveness means that we are not going to allow the experiences of the past to dominate our future.”
Is this easy? No. As a matter a fact I feel that it is pretty dog-gone difficult. But as we grow in our relationship with Christ, becoming more like Him through this process called sanctification, it does become easier. We often hear that we should practice the act of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not simply an act, but a process. It is a journey. A journey filled with valleys and mountaintops with straight interstates and winding roads.
So what does this idea of forgiveness have to do with the rules of soccer? We can’t live our lives as the referee, blowing the whistle and giving out red cards, suspending players for life. When we disqualify others completely from our lives because of the wrong that they do, it allows bitterness, resentment, and anger to brew inside of us, eventually torturing our souls. We should always allow for the chance of redemption. Is it ever ok to pull the red card? Sometimes we need to pull away from someone or some situation for a period of time to gain perspective. Maybe we need to to allow trust to build. (Titus 3:10-11, Rom 16:17) So, why not a yellow card? (Gal. 6:1)
The yellow card allows the player to know, hey, that was a dirty play. That was wrong and hurtful. It allows the player to continue in the game but also allows them to grow in knowledge of fair play following the rules. Playing the yellow card allows you to protect yourself and those for which you care from the possibility of being hurt again, meanwhile it places that person in check to ensure that they are humble and repentant. It allows the opposing player time to recognize their fault and creates the possibility of redemption.
So, who in your life have you given the red card to? Who have you written off due to their foul play? Do they even know that you have kicked them completely out of the game or have you secretly disassociated with them? Forgiveness is not only important for the other person, but it is directly important to you. It is due to forgiveness and the debt that was paid on the cross, we are able to come into relationship with God and live forever with Him. (Rom 6:23) We are to forgive one another as Christ forgives us. (Eph 4:32)
- As you read this, What name came to your mind? What card did you pull on them? Yellow? Red? Or did you completely suspend them indefinitely out of your life?
- May the Lord bless you in whatever hurt or struggle that you may be carrying and grant you the ability to overcome bitterness and anger toward another, whether they deliberately or unintentionally hurt you.
- May the Lord bless you in the process of forgiving others as He has forgiven you. And praise Him that our Father is our judge but not our referee carrying around red and yellow cards.