Restraint or Enabling?

Without the integrity of the game, what do you have? A bunch of big, strong, angry men who have reached their breaking point. Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Boston

Last night, the Patriots lost to the Ravens. Make no mistake – the Patriots lost that game. They had a couple crucial errors in pass coverage that allowed the Ravens to be in position to win by a single point.

But the officiating reached a new low, and I hope the replacement referees had body armor and armed guards when they left M&T Bank Stadium last night. At one point, the crowd was actually chanting expletives at the refs. This was not individual fans. It was 70,000 very angry and frustrated (and intoxicated) fans standing from their seats to insult the men in striped shirts.

The players, the coaches and the fans are seething. They have reached a boiling point while the NFL and the real officials continue to try to negotiate a contract. If the NFL does not do something soon, we are going to start seeing players turning on the replacement officials. Remember that these are, as Jackie MacMullan put it, “big, strong, angry men.”

How much is too much? When does restraint in the face of injustice become enabling the injustice? When do we say enough is enough and start turning off our televisions? When we will stop showing up at the games?

I love football. It is a game I have loved to watch for decades. But after last week, I am not sure I will watch it next weekend. Why sacrifice time on a game that is losing its meaning and rhythm because of a contract debate and scab workers who clearly don’t care or understand what they are trying to do?

Who am I kidding? I will continue to watch because I love the game. I will continue to scream at the mess the NFL has become, but I am powerless to change it. My beloved sport is about to slip over a precipice and become a caricature of its former self, and I will probably just take it.

And then, I began to think about the apathy in my own life. What kind of craziness, injustice and abuse do I allow to take place around me while I sit there? How callous have I become that I just take what comes at me without a retort or response?

It is easy to become a mute observer, an enabler to those who would abuse others in the name of restraint.

This is what Jesus accused the Pharisees of in Luke 11:42 –

But woe unto you, Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

In the name of “not judging”, we often allow sin to go on around us. We enable those who are hurting others for fear of being considered a meddler.

Sometimes, I find myself in this position. Do you?

Maybe it is the fear of being stereotyped as a puritanical jerk who everyone has to be careful around. Maybe it is a longing to be a part of a group, even if that group does things that privately you do not think are appropriate. Maybe it is an underlying insecurity or inability to address the issue.

There are many things we should stay silent about, but there are some we need to raise a protest about. It is not enough for us to maintain personal righteousness. Sometimes we need to call others to follow the way of righteousness as well.

This is an unpopular statement, and yet it is at the core of the the New Testament. The apostles Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John wrote a healthy chunk of the New Testament and the bulk of their encouragement is a call to righteous actions – charity, stewardship, responsibility, edifying communication, decency, order, respect, obedience, submission.

There is a time for restraint and patience. There is also a time to do something to effect change.

I hope the NFL fans will rise up and do something for the love of the game.

I pray the church if Jesus Christ will rise up and do something for the love of the Lord and his love for his people.

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