Read Matthew 5:43-48
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth” (Matthew 5:5 NLT).
While I know this might be a hot take being that there are so many different sports out there, each with there own die-hard fans, I believe that American Football is the greatest sport ever invented. It is a hard-fought, physical, and mental battle on a battlefield that spans 100 yards. In fact, that is every sport (minus the 100 yards); however, there is something about football that just grabbed hold of me the second I played it.
Recently, I revisited an old football movie that I used to love: Friday Night Lights, starring Billy Bob Thorton as Permian High School coach, Gary Gaines. The story follows the true story of how Coach Gaines built a team unity, a family, out of players that were all in it for their different reasons. It turns out, Texas football is quite a huge thing at the High School level, each team having their own stadiums and rabid fans. They treat High School football almost as a religion down there.
For the coach, this meant that he is under constant scrutiny week-in-week out, with random visitations on and off the field by different community members trying to “remind” him how imporant Permian football is. If he loses, he and his family could be finding themselves out of a home and searching for the next town to hire him as the coach. The stress this puts on him, his wife Sharon, and his daughter Jennifer is tremendous.
For the team, the pressures are felt in many different ways. You have the talented James “Booby” Miles, who’s only skillset, or so he says, is to play football. He’s put all his eggs in that basket and it is essential for him to play the best game he can every week to try and get a scholarship to college and hopefully make into the NFL, the odds of which are against anyone who tries out for pro-ball. You have to the best of the best, fast, strong, big, and…in many ways…a little lucky to make it. Why does luck factor in. In one word: INJURIES. There’s only so much control one has to prevent them.
You have the QB, the tight end, and all of the players trying to do the same thing. Yet at the same time, life throws curveballs their way. Mike Winchell, the Quarterback, is the sole person taking care of his mom who suffers from mental health issues. Don Billingsly, the team’s running back, has a dad who was a former Permian High School football star. The problem is that he has also become a severe alcoholic who verbally and emotionally, maybe even sometimes physically, abuses his son when he feels he isn’t playing enough.
The point being, the game of football in this film becomes a metaphor for life. Life is messy, it throws curveballs into your plans, it can be fun and beautiful, but it can quickly turn to be ugly, messy, tough, brutal and can wreck you as quickly as it makes something out of you. That is football. That is life. The question for the team, and when it comes to life we are all on the team, is this: What are you going to do when you are down in the game, stuck in the mud? Do you give up and accept “fate”? Do you turn in and complain about all of the things that are going wrong? Or do you fight back and give it your all.
During one of the games, the team finds itself down at halftime and they are just two quarters away from watching their dream of winning slip away. The coach at halftime reminds them that he always expects them to be perfect. This time though, he defines what is perfect to him. It is not winning games. It is not shutting teams out and receiving glory as the victors. For him “perfect” is about the players and their relationship with each other, their family, and their friends. He said, “Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And the truth is that you did everything that you could, there wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done. Can you live in that moment as best you can with clear eyes and love in your heart…with joy in your heart. If you can do that gentlemen, then you are perfect.”
Amen. This is the kind of perfection that I believe Jesus is eluding to when he tells his disciples, and us by extension, that we ought to be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect. Jesus is not saying that we need to be flawless, perfect in the sense of never doing anything wrong or making mistakes. Just as coach says, it’s not about winning or losing, getting it right or getting it wrong. Rather, Jesus…and coach…are telling us that it’s about sincerity, TRUTH, and LOVE.
In the TV series of the same name, Coach Eric Taylor puts it this way, “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t lose.” And I believe that is exactly what Jesus is telling us, when he talks about the kind of LOVE that our hearts should be full with. We are to love to the point of loving our enemies. That does not mean we will always flawlessly do that; however, that is what our hearts should be full of: LOVE.
Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose. Why? Because clear eyes recognize that we are all enemies of God at some point and God loves us so much that he died and rose again to forgive us. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose. Why? Because hearts filled with love of God leads us to hearts filled with love for all. Clear eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t lose. Why? Because there is NO losing in following God. Even when we get things wrong, God forgives us, picks us up, and puts us back on the path to victory. And that, my friends, is good news. So, remember this: Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose. Amen.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.” – Coach Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights (TV Series)
Lord help me to have the humility to have clear eyes. Let my heart be filled with your love. I know with you in my heart there is no losing. Amen.