Let’s be honest. A pretty decent number of us have not watched a soccer game since the World Cup packed the streets of Germany back in ’06. But now it’s here again…it’s big, it’s international, it’s exciting, and if nothing else, your home country’s involvement has hopefully peaked your interest.
But I think what keeps a lot of us interested, and what really provokes us to move past being a “I’m just watching because it’s on and I guess it’s kind of interesting” to a “I really care about this. This really matters. It matters to me!” kind of fan is the personal involvement that tugs at our hearts when we see things going a different way from how we think they should.
A few nights ago, Brazil played CÃ´te d’Ivoire and won the game 3 – 1. But after the match was finished and the stadium was cleared, it wasn’t the score that people were talking about. The thing that drew folks in, that is still drawing folks in, was the second yellow card that one of Brazil’s most shining gems, Kaka received. Two yellows equal a red, and Kaka walked off the field before the clock was out, and may or may not be allowed to play in the next match. (Depending on whether FIFA decides to step in from what I understand.)
Why was Kaka’s red so controversial? Because an Ivory Coast player, Keita, ran into Kaka. Kaka lifted his arm to block the oncoming player from running straight into him in a natural, and after studying the replays I’d like to say,Â very reasonable manner. Keita feigned having been elbowed in the face, brought his hands to his face and fell to the ground as if he’d just been assaulted by an armed guard with a bully club. The replays make it clear he was not hit in the face, but the ref bought it and carded Kaka. It might be fair to go so far as to say Keita cheated and Kaka was punished for it.
Injustice prevailed and the world took notice.
Just a few nights before that, the USA played Slovenia. They were down 2 – zip at the half and rallied back with goals from Donovan and Bradley to level off at 2 – 2. Then the unthinkable happened: in the 86th minute, second-half sub Maurice Edu knocked in a close range shot to put the US ahead. With just minutes remaining in the game it seemed like a sure victory, until the goal was disallowed. The replay has been watched and Â re-watched. There are currently at least 24,711 views on youtube, and probably enough news articles and blog posts to circle the globe twice. It seems that at present no explanation has been offered.
Once again, injustice prevailed and the world took notice. (Fortunately, beating Algeria 1-0 last night means the USA boys are still in the game — feels like a bit of justice after the officiating tragedies.)
A friend of mine said ESPN is showing the disallowed goal footage back in the US before they show any highlights from the World Cup. Why? Because it engages people. It incites people. It takes people from “I’m just watching because it’s on and I guess it’s interesting” to “I really care. This really matters. It matters to me.”
Here’s the thing. I want to know what it will take to grab hold of the average Western churchgoer and bring them from “I will do something about injustice in the world when it’s easy and convenient for me” to “I care about this. This really matters. What happens in our world matters to me.”
Because for all the injustices on the playing field, still this is just a game. At the end of the World Cup there will be a trophy, some teams will win, some teams will lose. In 50 years not very many people will be able to remember what happened.
But in our world, these injustices are a different matter. The game is still going on, and it’s more than a game. I’m not going to bombard you with stats because I think you know them, but here are two, just relating to hunger: About 1 in 7 worldwide–854 million people–do not have enough food to sustain them. Approximately 25,000 people die each day of hunger or its related causes–about 9 million people per year. I won’t even get in to clean water, preventable disease…or this post will go on all day.
But here’s the thing. We literally could be the generation that ends extreme poverty. $65 billion could eliminate the most extreme poverty on the planet for more than a billion people.* Please read that again.Â (That’s how much America spent on Jewelry in 2008.) Less than a third of what we spent on pets in 2003 could bring clean water to most of the world’s poor.^ I could go on and on with statistics which could demonstrate the fact that making a huge impact on the lives of the world’s poorest people is within our grasp. It is even within the grasp of just the American church, if every churchgoer in America tithed.
The reason I address the church is because this mission for us is a non-negotiable, unmistakeable absolute command and as long as we fail to follow through with it, we are falling short of what we have been repeatedly instructed to do. On average we’re giving 2.2 percent of our income to the church and 2% of that is going to overseas missions of any kind.Â§
You probably don’t hold that $65 billion in your hands, I know. But you do have something to give. If Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish, one boy’s lunch, and fed more than 5,000, surely we all have something to give. Mother Teresa once said:
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
Let those drops start today (or continue to flow as I believe it is for many of you)Â with loving the person in front of you. Loving the neighbour God puts in your path. Make sure you’re willing to let Him stretch wide the understanding of your heart to answer that simple question: “Who is my neighbour?”
To paraphrase Edmund Burke, on or off the field, for injustice to prevail is for good men to do nothing. Keep believing you can make a difference. You can, and especially with God’s love at heart, you will.
*Sachs, Jeffrey D. Â The End of Poverty, (2005) 295. via Stearns, Richard. The Hole in Our Gospel, (2005).
^Stein, Joel. “It’s a Dog’s Life.” Time Magazine, May 19, 2003. Â + United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, 1998. via ” ”
Â§Stearns, R. Hole, 2005.