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Toward Wholeness Blog

Bad Calls and Hell: Soccer teaches theology

If you’re an American and you care about the World Cup at all, you know about the third goal in our game last Friday; the non-goal; the

disallowed goal.  The blown call has the whole soccer world up in arms because it was such an obvious breach of justice.  The ref’s  Wiki page was defaced within minutes of the blown call, and there has even been a revival of discussions about the use of video replay in soccer, because it’s obvious to everyone that it’s a better game if officials get the call right.

Right.  The word shares it’s root with the word “Righteous”, and both are also rooted in the universal notion of justice that seems to course through the veins of humanity.  We’re outraged at Rwandan genocide, and more recently, Kyrgyzstan, just as we are at pedophilia, missing children, and so much more.  We have longings, deep inside us, for the way the world ought to be, and when it isn’t that way, we’re offended.  But we’re more than offended – we want things made right.  That’s why there are courts, and military tribunals, and war crimes trials.  We want justice.  When it’s a blown call at a World Cup match, we yell at the TV and move on.  When it’s real life, it can suck the air out of our lungs as we mourn and grieve.

And yet, in educated places like Seattle, the average person on the streets doesn’t like the notion of hell.  “God shouldn’t send people away, not if he’s loving” is sort of the way we think.  Still, we want those who murder, and rape, and steal, sent away.  Can you see the contradiction?  We want God to accept everyone, but we also want to live in a just world.  Here’s important news:  If it’s going to be a just world, it will be because God roots out all injustice, and that will happen because of God’s intervention to confine wickedness, so that the world of justice and peace for which we all long can finally happen.

Do you want to live in a just world?  Me too.  At least 4000 years of human history make it clear that this won’t happen without intervention.  Left to our own devices, evil will find its way into cultures and will, by force, seek to reign.  This is why the doctrines of judgement and hell are important.  You can argue about the literal or metaphorical nature of the flames, but it misses the point.  The point is this:  we long for justice and God, who is love, is committed to creating a just world, precisely because God is love, and love demands justice.

Our offense at injustice is present at every level, from blown calls to genocide.  We rightly want the world to be right and the good news is this:  God will make it right.  That’s why the Bibles praises God for his judgements (as seen in so many places), a counter-intuitive notion to our modern minds, but utterly sensible if we’ll but take a moment and think about.

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