Justice Is for Losers

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My son’s been playing soccer at the YMCA this last year. He’s now on his third team. He played on two 5-6 year old teams, then graduated to 7-8 this year. Even then, he’s barely seven.

We had our first game of the season today, and it was clear to me that he’s outclassed. His first year he scored a goal in the last game of the season, and I could not have been prouder. His second team showed him improving his skills; he scored three times for that team. From what I saw today, he’ll be lucky if he gets a dozen good kicks in the entire season—and by that I mean making actual contact with a soccer ball. A goal seems almost ludicrous to expect.

In previous seasons, the Y fielded about six 3-4 yr. old teams, four for 5-6 yr. olds, two for 7-8 yr. olds, and two 9-10 yr. old teams. This season, they couldn’t get any 10-yr. olds at all to play and could not even fill up their 7-8 yr. old teams. That means we have only two 7-9 yr. old teams.

The Y must compete against SAY and Select soccer in our area. The Y has one practice and one game per week. SAY and Select have two practices and two games per week. (Now imagine having two or more kids in those programs! Is it any wonder we’re so ridiculously busy!)

I have to be realistic. My son, no matter how hard he works, may simply lack the inherent talents he needs to play in those two highly-competitive leagues. But what makes it sad for me is the reality that parents don’t want their kids to play in the less competitive Y league because (I believe) they think their own kids will never play for USA Soccer and win that elusive World Cup unless they shun the less competitive Y program and go for the REAL kids’ soccer leagues.

Here’s to ratcheting all of life up a notch or two. (For some reason the phrase “metal fatigue” keeps popping into my head.)

I hate Darwinism, especially Social Darwinism. The idea of the Selfish Gene theory driving all that we do, that our mantra for life is reduced to survival of the fittest, just makes me nuts. And what makes me even more despondent is that, too often, Christians are the ones driving that Excellence At All Cost mentality. So much for fun, fairness, and good sportsmanship. It lost out to Kill or Be Killed—in pre-tween soccer.

It seems to me that the Gospel of grace stands in stark opposition to this non-stop treadmill of competition that drives our lives. If nothing else, it demands we seek justice for the oppressed. Anymore, the oppressed may very well be anyone who isn’t deemed “a winner.” While I’m definitely not into the highly PC idea that we forgo having winners and losers in sports to shield our children’s fragile egos, I don’t think we have to naturally fall into the other extreme. We’ve made every aspect of life into a competition, and that’s simply evil. In our free country, we’ve traded political oppression for social and economic oppression. And let’s be honest: that may be the worse trade. At least in the politically oppressed nation, it’s only the government that’s against you. In ours, everyone is.

The Bible says this:

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
—Proverbs 21:13

The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
—Proverbs 21:10

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
—Psalms 82:1-4

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
—Acts 20:35

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
—Micah 6:8

Last week, I discussed issues facing men. One of the fallacies that the modern Christian men’s movement upholds with religious fervor is the power of the strong. Something about a song Beck sang...But in the Bible, on the whole, strength is only good when God wields it. When Man throws it around, people wind up crushed. Sadly, too many of us root for the crushers rather than defend the crushees.

When we speak of justice, we must remember that justice is for losers. As Christians, we’re to minister justice on behalf of the losers of this world, the ones who cannot keep up, the ones who do not have the strength to carry on. As much as we rant about righteousness, I hardly ever hear Christians begging to be more just in their hearts.

But David says this about God:

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
—Psalms 89:14

Justice is one of the pillars of God’s throne. Heaven itself is established on justice! Why then do we ignore justice in our lives? Why do we American Christians throw in our lot with the popular and not with the ignored? Why do we love winners and hate losers? Why is our theology based on Social Darwinism and not on justice for the weak?

If the Church in this country is doing justice right anywhere, it’s in the anti-abortion movement. We’ve got that down to a science. Good for us. I hate to think what it would be like if we ignored that justice issue.

But what is the Christian’s obligation to workers crushed in the wake of unjust business practices? What is the Christian’s obligation to the children who go unadopted because they are the wrong age, or have a learning disability, or simply aren’t good looking enough to make it in a culture obsessed with appearances? Does God not hear their cries for mercy?

I cannot say that I love my neighbor if I do not seek justice for him. The two go hand in hand. Yet when was the last time you heard this preached from your church’s pulpit?

Consider the following:

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
—Proverbs 24:11-12

God does not care for our excuses. No, our justice will never be as perfect as His, but He still calls us to fight on behalf of others.

One last Scripture from the lips of Jesus:

You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
—Luke 21:17

You see, we Christians should understand that the world sees us as losers. For this reason, how can we not understand justice? How can we ignore the plight of those who cry out for justice?

I have to wonder if our lack of concern for justice has turned us into friends of the perpetrators of injustice rather than friends of God the Righteous Judge.

How will that look on the Day of Ultimate Justice?

12 thoughts on “Justice Is for Losers

  1. “In our free country, we’ve traded political oppression for social and economic oppression.”

    This is a heavy statement. And I can’t disagree. I would have had a harder time swallowing this before I left the US and lived outside for several years. You learn more about your own culture by entering a foreign one than you do by remaining immersed in it. I found Canada to be more compassionate, more empathetic and more concerned about social justice than America. And what makes this so sad is that Canada is only 2% Christian (it’s now among the “post-Christian” nations). America is identified by the international community as a Christian nation. But somehow, I don’t think we’re providing a very good ‘witness’ of the gospel. I love America, and that’s why this concerns me so much.

    • Sarah,

      I’m not sure I would have been able to write that statement even five years ago, but I see it now. I’m disappointed for our country. I love America, too, but we need to wake up.

  2. David Riggins

    Paul is often held up as a “tentmaker”: working for his own keep, not depending on others to meet his needs, etc. His example is the bastion of American self-sufficiency, the poster child for the misunderstanding that fuels American selfishness: “God helps those who help themselves.”

    How many people hold Acts 20:34 up as an example for their pastor to follow, but skim over Acts 20:35? He was providing an example of how we should work hard to feed others.

    Freedom, Justice and Hope are concepts that have been warped and twisted by the religious right over the decades. (They’ve been warped and twisted by secular humanists too, but we can’t do much about them…) Freedom has become something more akin to license, Justice is for the one with the better lawyer (or cause) and Hope is economic. It kills me when supposed Christians froth at the mouth for the death penalty, or for stiffer sentancing. When a church turns away the homeless, or pawns off the unemployed, what is the usual excuse? When a single mother has nowhere to turn, where is the church? When a widow is found dead from heatstroke in her New York apartment, where was the body of Christ?

    I don’t believe this country was given great wealth so we could be comfortable.

    How did we get here? How do we get back?

    • Elizabeth

      One connection at a time. We have to be that human chain, one hand to another, that reaches out into the sea.
      No, let me rephrase it. *I* have to be that chain, or at least one link in it. We can’t keep looking to larger bodies to get it right: it has to start here, and now.

      Ok! I’m ready to go!
      Now what do I do…

      • Elizabeth,

        “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might….”

        You know what it is that God has put on your heart to do. We all do. We just need to do it no matter the cost. Nothing we lose here will not be given back a hundred-fold in heaven.

        • Elizabeth

          Actually, that’s my problem right now. I really don’t. But I’m at a bit of a crossroads, and it’s going to take a lot of prayer to see the path in front of me. Right now, all I can see is what’s under my feet.
          Of course, that’s what faith is, isn’t it. *smile*

    • David,

      Over the last few years, I believe that God has taught me two concepts above all others:

      1. Christ founded the Church as a community, not as a loose band of self-sufficient individuals. This has profound ramifications for every aspect of our lives.

      2. Love is the pinnacle of Christian expression; we must always lead with love.

      I’m greatly distressed that I cannot do more to live out those two principles. My wife and I suffer repeatedly through these times that put the kabosh on everything we’re doing and all our grand plans get put on hold. It’s like being stranded at sea, spying fertile land in the distance, but never reaching it. We’re distracted by the simplest of needs and that consumes our attention and time.

      Anyway…

      We succumb to the antithesis of many of the concepts we encounter in the Scriptures because of fear and faithlessness.

      For instance, if I were to truly fight for justice on the behalf of those who have no one fighting for them, then I would surely lose everything. The world does not like square pegs. That’s another truth I’ve learned in my life. Supporting the weak is about as square peg as it gets, especially when the people you’re fighting for are considered the “Untouchables.” It’s not just the Hindus who have their low castes. We have them in America, too. Ours just look different.

      So I don’t understand this triumphalism that predominates in our Churches today that portrays us as anything but the scum of the earth. We’re respectable, accepted, with cover stories on our power splashed over the covers of Newsweek and Time. We’ve arrived.

      So much for being hated for bearing His name.

      I have very good reason to believe that we’re on the verge of another dark time. But we’re not keeping our wicks trimmed and our lamps full of oil. We’re burning it all without care. That’s not going to work.

      I write this blog partly as an outlet for what burns inside me. In some ways, I see this blog as the canary in the coal mine. I should not assume that anyone will listen, though. Who am I?

      But I’ve got to say something or else I’ll burst. I cannot stop from saying these things, even if I sound like a broken record.

      I ask the question, “Well, what can those of us who see these things do?” and I keep coming back to the same reality: we must keep on speaking the truth. Someone will hear. If not the Christian “leaders” in this country, then godly, nameless people who get it. Those folks have a way of being heard eventually. The blood of the silenced martyrs cries out. I pray the voice of the nameless servants of Christ echoes across this nation.

  3. Suzanne

    My area of the country has quite a large number of parochial elementary schools and a few high schools. Sadly, I rarely hear those that support and send their children to these schools express happiness in any lessons of humility, godliness, patience, etc. that the schools teach and foster. Most often, I hear bragging about how great the sports programs are and how much better the kids do on standardized tests. Most also, if pressed, will talk about the kids that left these schools because they “just didn’t fit in”; these kids were, in other words, “losers” and didn’t belong in the world of Christian winners.

  4. Diane Roberts

    You left me back with 3-4 year olds playing on a soccer team. 3 year olds are playing competitive soccer? Yikes! I guess I ‘ve been living on another planet.

    Meanwhile back to the subject at hand……One of the best books I’ve read recently is “Generation Me” by Dr. Jean Twenge. She discusses the self-esteem movement and how it’s wrecked kids. Perhaps this is the other, more “dark” side of that movement?

    • Suzanne

      Oh yes! Great book. I’ve recommended it to so many people that my friends are probably tired of hearing me recommend it. I think everyone that works or volunteers with people under the age of 40 should read it. Extremely enlightening. Another great book is “Just Let the Kids Play” by Bob Bigelow. Like “Generation Me”, it is a well reasoned, well documented, non-alarmist book that spells out why the overload of competative sports is doing kids little or no good in the end.

  5. What can we do? Well, so many Evangelicals have the mindset that it has to be big, big, big! It doesn’t. I’m reminded of a quote by Mother Teresa:

    In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.

    We can talk about justice and mercy-giving until the cows come home, but just one small thing can make a huge difference. I like the Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, uttermost part of the earth analogy Will and I used in our book Justice in the Burbs.

    Jerusalem = home
    Judea = your neighborhood
    Samaria = your city
    Uttermost = well, the uttermost

    Are we treating our own spouse/children well? Do we know our neighbors and are we loving them? Perhaps there are elderly people who need company or someone suffering from cancer? Do we seek the welfare of our metropolitan area: there are always lots of opportunities for service in cities. Try volunteermatch.org–put in your zip code and be amazed! And the world? How about sponsoring an orphan somewhere?

    Small things with great love.

    And Dan, what happened to your HAND?!! Ouch!!

    • Lisa,

      The Vineyard church I attended for years had as their motto: “Small things done with great love will change the world.” In fact, that’s inscribed on the building. I think Steve Sjogren came up with that one.

      I agree 100 percent that all justice must start granularly and expand.

      As for my hand, it’s fine. I was dying to find a copyright-free image of someone making a loser sign, but couldn’t, so I shot one of me. I have a slight callous on the pad of my palm there, but it looks completely normal. Something about the camera flash grossly exaggerated the color of the callous, plus added a bright, shiny spot. None of that exists at all in normal light. Since I didn’t want to spend forever trying to edit the pic, I left the image as is.

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