This year I have watched more than my usual dose of football. In the staff room sweepstake I picked out Croatia for the World Cup. They have not managed to move into the next round. I watched all their matches quite faithfully and also picked up one or two of the players’ names. One night they were playing, I went as far as finding a recipe for a Croatian beef stew to cook that evening. I think I did my stuff!
However, they failed to do their stuff. They played brilliantly against Brazil, but scored no goals and lost 1-0. They played against Japan, but with few sparks igniting and drew that match. They lost to Australia. I have to confess that I stopped watching the game quite early on. They were committing some fairly outrageous fouls. It went beyond hanging onto jumpers and tripping up the opposition – it was appalling. As I told my fourth years boys the following day – I can’t abide bad behaviour whether it is in the classroom or on the football field. They replied, “It’s a man’s game!” and “It’s a contact sport!” but even so…I still don’t think that excuses a lack of sportsmanship.
I am feeling quite convicted though of my abandonment of Croatia! I was reading this morning in Psalm 106 of Israel’s list of appalling behaviour towards God. Theirs was not the holding on to jumpers and tripping folks up kind of bad behaviour. The Israelites involved themselves in all a huge catalogue of extreme wickedness including sacrificing their children to idols! They were really bad – but in verse 44 God does not abandon them. It says that He had pity. He heard their cries. He remembered the covenant He made. He remembered the unfailing love he had for them.
I am convicted that I often tie in support and encouragement for people with behaviour. I am like the governments of so many countries – I will give aid as long as the man on the receiving end maintains a good human rights record! It is natural inclination I suppose.
But God is not like that! Unfailing love is exactly what it says! God’s love is not conditional upon good behaviour. He does not love me because I am good. He does not love me more if I am very good, as opposed to just good! He doesn’t cease to love me when I am bad. Disappointed perhaps, but He never withdraws his love.
At the end of the day, I supported Croatia because I drew their name out of a hat. I didn’t look at all the other teams and deliberately choose Croatia. I didn’t come to love them!
God chose me and that makes all the difference!