I identify as a Christian. A Jesus follower. A sinner saved by grace. A human indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God. One who claims the continuous availability of the power and fruits of the Jesus life.
I turn into a self-righteous Pharisee within milliseconds of seeing a college basketball coach throw hands at another coach. Like the incredible hulk when he gets angry and like Popeye when he gulps a can of spinach, I become a high and mighty judge when I see two grown men fight after a game on national television.
“Why did he do that!?”
“What was he thinking!?”
“If I was the NCAA, I would throw the book at him!”
“Both coaches ought to be ashamed of themselves!”
“How could they stoop to such a level?”
“Auburn’s coach would never do that!”
“The ones involved should be punished severely for their crimes!”
THEN, to make matters worse – when the sanctions are handed down, I continue with my “better and more holy than you” thinking.
“Is that all? Good grief!”
“That’s not fair!”
“Why not more game suspensions?”
“Why not bigger fines?”
“Shouldn’t both coaches be fired?”
“The NCAA was too hard on this coach and too lenient on that coach!”
You get the idea. It’s scary how quickly I condemn.
In case you are unaware, I am writing about the recent incident between Michigan’s head men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard and Wisconsin’s head coach Greg Gard. Coach Howard thought coach Gard shouldn’t have called time-outs at the end of their game. Coach Gard thought otherwise. Things got heated in the “good game” handshake line, and, punches were thrown. Suspensions were handed down. Apology statements were issued. Sport pundits talked and talked and talked about it, offering their opinions of the situation. We all got to play judge for a day or so.
To be sure, accountability for this sort of thing should occur. Coaches yelling and throwing punches at one another should never – ever happen. The NCAA is right to ensure measures are in place to prevent similar incidents in the future. Yes. Yes. And yes. This is good and right and, ultimately, a universal grace for everyone.
But. . .
It is frightening how quickly my inner Pharisee emerges, demanding justice be served to those deserving of punishment. I am mortified how quickly and unconsciously I sit on my throne of self-righteousness. It is embarrassing how “un-Christian” I become in my thoughts and words.
I wonder how the Father views such incidents from a spiritual, relationship-with-Him, perspective? I mean, how does God treat Juwan Howard? Sure. There are consequences to his actions. They are necessary and good and right. But consider, if only for a moment, how God looks at Juwan Howard for what he did Sunday afternoon? I dare say our thoughts about how God sees coach Howard’s actions will reveal a lot about what we believe about God.
I have no idea where Juwan Howard is spiritually. But, right now, that’s not the point. What would God want Juwan to know about Him? I believe He would want the coach to know that He loves him. That it’s okay. That it’s not the end of the world. That being known in the kingdom of heaven as a “righteous and holy and loving man” is available. That he can still be one of the “Fab Five” in His eyes. I believe the Father would empathize with the coach. He would ask questions like, “Why did you get so angry, really?” Or, “Why did you feel so threatened in that moment, really?” Or, “What, at the root, is causing this stress and angst and anger?” Or, “What would bring you ultimate peace, Juwan?” Or, “If you win the NCAA tournament, then what?” Or, “If you have a losing record and lose your job, then what?” Or, “How would your life and perspective and outlook change if you really believed you were fully known and safe and loved unconditionally?” Or maybe the Father would simply say, “Coach Howard, take a nap. When you wake up, when you’re ready, tell me anything that’s on your mind.”?
I’m not sure. I don’t know. But what I am certain of is I am quick to not want to treat others the way I want to be treated. When others act like that . . . I judge and condemn as if I’ve never heard the word “grace.” When I, however, do the same things – in different ways – I know precisely what I need and long for.
Maybe the reason Juwan took a swipe at a coach is because, deep down, he believes God feels the same way toward him? Or maybe I am so quick to judge guys like coach Howard because I still carry with me the thought that God treats me that way? Maybe, just maybe, the reason Jesus said that treating others the way I want to be treated fulfills the Law and the Prophets is because it is a picture of what all so desperately need: grace. Better yet, it’s not a picture. It’s reality. Jesus treats us – all of us – not as we deserve . . . but as we ourselves most want and need and long to be treated. No punches. No judgment. No condemnation. All that has been accomplished and settled. Just love.