What the World Cup is showing me about grace

Full disclosure: I haven’t watched any of the World Cup. Even more shame in my game is the fact that I am deriving this news report from Kathie Lee and Hoda’s Thirsty Thursday episode, watched on the treadmill yesterday. Seriously, WHO AM I?

Regardless of my newsfeed, one of the most beautiful images I have seen recently hails from the English women’s soccer match against Japan. England defender Laura Bassett managed to kick a goal. Into her own goal. Causing her team to fall and hand Japan a 2-1 victory.

Bennett was described as inconsolable. She is obviously shaken to the point of incredulity in the pictures and videos I have seen. How could this have happened? I was perfectly positioned–how did the ball ricochet so strongly in the wrong direction? How was my goalie unable to defend our net?

Photo: FOX Sports
Photo: FOX Sports

But then her teammates emerge and tell a different story. They lay hands on her, they shield her entirely, like she is the goal they need to protect. We can imagine their words unspoken. You are our teammate. You made a mistake. Remember all those times you were amazing and strong? This was just one time. We’ve all been there. We are all here for you. We share in this defeat but our sadness is divided.

Friends, what if this was how we handled a failure in our communities? Instead of castigating the mistake-maker, what if we treated him who has made a public blunder less as a pariah and more as a teammate? What if we rallied around them, blanketed them in mercy, told them how this was just an accident. Reminded him of all the other times he shined, he made a difference for the better on our team?

This is grace in a womens soccer jersey. This is the Gospel running around in cleats.

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