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Weekly SNAC, 1 April 2018 - Cricket, cheating and Easter

You might be forgiven for thinking this week that there had been a national tragedy of unprecedented proportions. On the basis of the media saturation and reports you would believe that some Australians in South Africa had murdered hundreds of people. Even those with no interest in cricket have felt the need to express their outrage at the Australian cricket team.You might be forgiven for thinking this week that there had been a national tragedy of unprecedented proportions. On the basis of the media saturation and reports you would believe that some Australians in South Africa had murdered hundreds of people. Even those with no interest in cricket have felt the need to express their outrage at the Australian cricket team.

As someone who loves cricket I found the actions of our team sad, but I must admit I have found the reactions of many people more interesting to observe, because they show us yet again how human beings don’t know how to react to human sin. On the one hand there is the condemnation with no forgiveness side. There have been calls (from the Prime Minister down) for harsh penalties. “They should never play for their country ever again.” “Don’t let them resign – sack them”. This seems to have been the majority of the headlines and commentary. However, for a smaller number, there has been the opposite response. “Does it really matter?” “They’ve admitted it, surely we can just forgive and move on?” In those two stark responses we see the sad reality of how we human beings tend to respond to all sin. When we see moral failure in others we love to judge and condemn. We feel that justice must be done and there is no room for grace. Yet, when we see it in ourselves (or those we love) we justify it and argue that forgiveness is the best way.

However, Jesus came and showed a better way. On the one hand he pointed out hypocrisy. He showed us that we should be very careful before we judge other people when we ourselves are far from blameless. Famously, Jesus called on us to remove the log from our own eye before we dare point out the speck in others. Jesus might say to some this week, “Whoever is without sin throw the first cricket ball.”

Yet, on the other hand, Jesus pointed out the seriousness of our sin and failure. Often people point out Jesus’ call to the judgmental Pharisees of his day that “he who is without sin should throw the first stone”. However, they fail to read on and see that Jesus then turned to the sinner and told them to “go and sin no more”. Human beings struggle to hold that tension; we either want forgiveness with no justice or justice with no forgiveness. Jesus offered a better way. He took sin and wrongdoing seriously, justice needs to be done. However, he also offered grace and forgiveness.

Of course, it is at Easter and especially on Good Friday that we see that better way most clearly. On the one hand, in his death on the cross Jesus was ensuring that justice was done. God had promised that human rejection of him must be punished. However, the wonder of Good Friday is that instead of making us pay for our sin, Jesus paid the price on our behalf. It is then because of that, that we can be forgiven.Of course, it is at Easter and especially on Good Friday that we see that better way most clearly. On the one hand, in his death on the cross Jesus was ensuring that justice was done. God had promised that human rejection of him must be punished. However, the wonder of Good Friday is that instead of making us pay for our sin, Jesus paid the price on our behalf. It is then because of that, that we can be forgiven.

Jesus’ forgiveness is not a cheap platitude, it is a real and deep forgiveness that cost him dearly. That is why we say that at the cross “justice and mercy meet”. This Easter I pray that you will know that costly forgiveness yourself and that then you will show it the way you treat others.

                 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Phil Colgan