“You shall do no injustice…but in righteousness you shall judge…” Leviticus 19:15
Aside from a few heretics in the northwest corner of the country, the nation has known a rare few days of unity this week as both President Obama and Congressman Ryan have joined the chorus of indignant voices condemning the call by the rent-a-refs on the last play of Monday night’s NFL contest between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks.
Many of us, and not just cheeseheads, have joined the Psalmist in a righteous plea, “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (Psalm 82:2)
In case you were vacationing on Mars this past week, the news is that because the regular NFL referees have been on strike, this season’s games have been officiated by teams of replacements and they aren’t doing a very good job. Things came to a head on Monday night when, on the last play of the game, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson through a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. The whole world, with the exception of the substitute officials and a few diehard Seahawks fans, agrees that Packer M.D. Jennings intercepted the pass and hit the ground in possession of the ball. But as he was coming down, Seattle receiver Golden Tate got his hands on the ball and the refs ruled the play a Seattle touchdown by virtue of simultaneous possession.
Seahawks owner and Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen called the play the Monday Night Miracle, but few outside Seattle agree with his assessment. President Obama declared the call “terrible,” and Congressman Ryan boldly called for an end to the injustice. We’ll take agreement whenever we can get it.
We hate injustice. We want things to be fair. Especially when it has to do with us or our team. Maybe not so much when it has to do with the other team or oppressed people on the other side of the world.
The 15 minutes of fiasco caused by the Monday Night (not) Miracle is a reminder that God calls his people to something better and something higher than the mistake-filled officiating of the replacement refs. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:9-10) God’s people are called to show kindness and mercy to the people of Syria and North Philadelphia, the children of our homes and the friends at our workplaces.
It was the officials’ mistake, not their kindness and mercy, that gave the Seahawks the game on Monday night. True judgment would have given last throw of the game to M.d. Jennings. Kindness and mercy would have told Golden Tate who didn’t quite make that last reception that he’d done his best, it’s past and forgotten, that there’d be another game next week and that, besides, he is loved for who he is and not for what he does.
Loved for who we are despite what we’ve done is not how the NFL works. But amazingly, it is how God works – our perfect judge and merciful savior, whose justice and mercy allow us to show the whole world what love looks like.