I’m a huge Steelers fan. I come by it honestly, having lived in Pittsburgh for three years while I was in seminary. Yet I’ve recently noticed that rooting for the Steelers really throws my lack of sanctification into sharp relief.
Before last week’s AFC Championship game against the hometown Jets (my parish, though in New Jersey, is closer to New York than New Meadowlands Stadium, where both the “New York” Jets and Giants play), people started asking me if we were going to throw a Super Bowl party at our church. We did last year, watching the Colts fall short against Drew Brees and the sentimental favorite New Orleans Saints. Our sanctuary is outfitted with a projector and giant screen, so it’s undeniably fun to watch a game there. My stock answer to the Super Bowl question, though, was “Not if the Steelers win tonight.” This, of course, only made people more curious. As it turns out, the reason I was only willing to host a Super Bowl party if the Steelers WEREN’T in it was that I didn’t want people to see the person I turn into when the Steelers are losing.
Though our church (notably named “Grace Church”) preaches a message of Grace and Gospel every day of our lives together, it says something about humans, or at least about me, that I still don’t believe that if people REALLY knew what I was like they’d still want to come to my church. I’m an incredibly gracious victor. Unfortunately, I’m a pretty sore loser. I’m also mildly embarrassed that I refer to the Steelers in the first person. You know, as in, “We made the Super Bowl!” I’m even more embarrassed that the ups and downs of a silly football team hold such sway over my emotions. I ride such a high after a win and such a morose down after a loss. It’s good for my congregation that I have Mondays off.
This roller coaster ride serves to remind me, though, that it is the miracle of the Gospel that Jesus can truly know us, and yet love us. When it happens amongst humans, it’s shocking. It’s why people get married. It’s also the very cornerstone of the Good News. We are known, in all our sin, our imperfection, and our pettiness. And yet, the Son of God, who knew none of that, no sin, no imperfection, no pettiness, died for us, to reconcile us to God.
It’s possible that this knowledge might allow me to survive a Steelers loss in the Super Bowl. I just pray I don’t have to find out.