I have a love-hate relationship with football. I love the sport--the teamwork, the excitement, and the drama appeal to me. Watching the Chicago Bears win a game is always a reason to celebrate.
However, I am very uncomfortable with the violence inherent in the game. As someone committed to living a life of nonviolence, I am troubled by the fact that I find violence so entertaining.
This past Sunday, however, I was troubled by watching the NFL for another reason: the protests by NFL players during the national anthem. Not that I was upset by the protests. I support their right to protest and I agree with their reasons for protesting. I also understand and respect those who were hurt by the apparent disrespect shown to the flag. The flag represents all that is good and noble about our country; to disrespect it by kneeling during the national anthem undermines the unity the flag represents.
I was upset at how quickly we picked sides and began posting our outrage on social media. Empathy, understanding, and compassion are no longer virtues these days. The only thing we seem to be generous with is our disdain for people with whom we disagree.
I'd like to be more generous to people with whom I do not agree, with people I think are wrong, misguided, or simply ignorant. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. I'd prefer to walk with them as friends and not charge at them as if we were on opposing lines of a battlefield.
"Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) Take a moment and recall that you are in the presence of the Divine. Let go of your self-image and let God form you and shape you for this meditation.
Read the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Imagine that you are part of the scene. But imagine that the man who was robbed was someone you dislike, someone who is not on your "side".
What if it was Colin Kaepernick, beaten up after kneeling during the national anthem? What if it was President Trump, beaten up by the national press?
How do you react when you see this person--whoever it is--suffering at the side of the road? How are you like the priest or the Levite? Do you feel that this person deserved the beating? Are you afraid that you will somehow be contaminated by this person if you help him or her?
What prevents you from helping this person? What prevents you from showing him or her compassion?
Talk to Jesus about this obstacle. Do not hide this obstacle out of shame; rather, show it to him. What does he say about it? Imagine he takes this obstacle from you. What does it feel like to be relieved of this burden?
Jesus says to you, "Go and do as the Samaritan did." What will that look like as you go about your day tomorrow?
Close with this prayer or one of your own: Lord, help me show all people love, mercy, and compassion, and in doing so, let me come to know you. Amen.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers attacked him. They stripped off his clothes and beat him. Then they went away, leaving him almost dead. A priest happened to be going down that same road. When he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. A Levite also came by. When he saw the man, he passed by on the other side too. But a Samaritan came to the place where the man was. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him. He went to him, poured olive oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey. He brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins. He gave them to the owner of the inn. ‘Take care of him,’ he said. ‘When I return, I will pay you back for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of the three do you think was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by robbers?”
The authority on the law replied, “The one who felt sorry for him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do as he did.”