I recently had the pleasure of refereeing a football match between a school I used to deliver P.E. in, and it’s sister school that I currently deliver P.E. in.
Not the most overly daunting task until you factor in that the schools are both Pupil Referal Units, full of young people who have been kicked out of mainstream school for various behaviour issues! With a dash of sporting intensity, a pinch of school rivalry, and the teachers bigging up the bragging rights factor, and all of a sudden, you’re a solitary man, in the middle of 22 emotionally charged young people that you need to control! Most would say “Rather you than me!”, and I can’t disagree!
The match, surprisingly went off without a hitch, despite a penalty given against the home side, a dubious off-side goal allowed, a last minute free-kick given on the edge of the box which rattled the cross-bar and a few tasty tackles from either side!
The game finished 6-5, with the home side (the school I was currently teaching in) ending up on the losing end of the scoreline.
After the game, I had the awkward moment of having to walk back through the school, among the young people I teach, who had just lost, and a few struggling to control their emotions. I can’t say I was well liked, and a few of them were very vocal in expressing how they felt (although their comments are unprintable on this blog!)
What I did find extraordinary though, pre and post game, was the attitude of some of the staff:
“How could you give that penalty, don’t you remember where you work?!”
“You couldn’t have just blown up for a foul before they shot, couldn’t you?”
“Why didn’t you give a few more decisions out way?”
(these were actual things said to me, not even paraphrased)
The problem with this mentality and attitude, is that winning has taken a priority over the integrity of the game. I’ve come along way in my personal beliefs regarding this (possibly as I’ve got older, winning means less to me), but deep down, I couldn’t enjoy winning a game knowing I’d bent the rules to get there. If I concede a throw in or a corner, and claim the ball never touched me, I’ve lied to gain an advantage. If I’m honest, and my team concede a goal from that throw in or corner, then it’s not my honesty that has cost us a goal, but rather our inability to defend the opponents attack.
One of the most famous instances of sporting cheating, is Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the quarter finals of the 1986 World Cup finals. For those of you who are unaware of the incident (I am sure you are ALL aware of the incident), Maradona jumped with the goalkeeper, and used his hand to knock the ball past him and into the empty net, claiming that he had used his head. Inexplicably, the referee hadn’t been to Specsavers.
The question that is posed in this instance, is that if you couldn’t reach the ball with your head (within the laws of the game), using your hand is outside of the laws of the game, and therefore lacks integrity. Even if you get away with it, which somehow Maradona did, it’s not right. The major issue in the instance of Maradona, is he had enough natural ability to win the game without cheating (his second goal in the same game proved this). But if we must rely on a lack of integrity, over and above of our ability, does a win really mean anything at all?
In 2 Timothy 2:5, Paul shares some insight into living a life of integrity in our walk with Christ:
“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
What does this mean in the context of our faith? In the beginning of the chapter, Paul encourages Timothy to be strong in his faith. Perhaps, there is a period of wavering. Maybe complaining? Maybe drifting from God? Maybe Timothy is going through some hardship, and not fully trusting in the Lord’s provision for his life. Ultimately, Paul speaks to him in terms of running a race. The race of life you could say. Can we truly wear a victor’s crown, at the end of our lives, if we’ve lied, cheated and stolen our way to the finish line?
Paul’s encouragement to Timothy is live a life of integrity. To be rewarded with a victor’s crown at the end of his race. We at Kick London offer you the same encouragement.