Today is R3 Day - "Regular Referee Return" Day! This morning we all woke to the welcome news that the NFL and regular referees have settled their dispute and that the NFL refs will be back to work in tonight's game. What a relief! We no longer will be able to complain about blown calls the replacement refs made. We can all get back to our age-old complaining about the blown calls the regular referees make.
It's true, isn't it? We have built into us a basic desire for fairness. We want right to prevail. From an early moment in our childhood we've learned to perfectly pronounce: "That's not fair!" In our games, in our elections, in our workplaces and schools, in our courts, we cry for what's right. We only want justice. It's not something we have to learn. It's something that seems a part of our very DNA as human beings.
God's Word has much to say about this topic. Justice is talked about no less than 134 times in the Bible. Today - on this Regular Referee Return day - I'd like to remind you of 3 important R3 reminders we learn from the Scriptures.
R3 Reminder #1 - Blown Calls Are The Norm, Not The Exception. We'd like to think that we live in a fair world. In the real world the Seahawks get the touchdown and the win, despite the unseen foul and the Green Bay interception. Amos 5:7 could easily be the Packers' theme verse of the week:
"There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground."
And here's the real rub. Even when we try to make the right call, we often get it wrong. In the tons of ink spilled over the blown call Monday night, hardly anyone is writing that the replacement ref blew it because he wanted to blow it. He blew it because he didn't know the rule. He blew it because he was inexperienced. He blew it because he wasn't ready for the NFL. He didn't blow it because he intended to blow it.
I'd like to think that when it comes to knowing right and wrong that I will just know it. Like Justice Potter Stewart describing obscenity in Jacobellis vs. Ohio I think to myself: "I will know it when I see it." The Bible, however, is clear in describing my (and your) justice blinders:
"There is no one righteous, no not one." Romans 3:10 (NIV)
Evangelicals often like to point to this verse in describing the human condition in need of salvation. The significance of this truth, though, is so much bigger than any of us can imagine. Christian or not, regular refs or replacement refs, man or woman, adult or child, good guy or bad guy - there is no one who both knows the right thing to do in all situations and also does the right thing in all situations. No not one!
R3 Reminder #2 - There is ONE REF Who Makes Every Call Right, No Exceptions. Who is that ONE REF? He is the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of all that is and ever will be. Compared to God, we are all replacement refs in our sense of justice and our ability to make the right call. Getting it right every time and in every way is foundational to Who He is!
"'I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the LORD." Jeremiah 9:24b (NIV)
One one hand it is wonderfully comforting to know that there is at least One who makes the right call. And that He has the ability to do more than throw a yellow flag. But if that's the case, then why are there so many penalties? Why doesn't THE REF make sure we all play the perfect game? I don't mean to punt on this question, but it's obviously bigger than my puny mind or blog post can fully answer. There is one more reminder, though, that helps us mere mortals - like me - make it through the daily grind of blown calls and injustice.
R3 Reminder #3 - This ONE REF Is Also The Commissioner And He's Changing The Game! This week we've read many calls for the NFL to get the issue solved with the regular refs. Even the presidential candidates have weighed in with this popular sentiment. Commissioner, just get it done!
The Bible tells us something really fantastic. This ONE REF is also the COMMISSIONER! The Lord God not only knows the right thing to do in all circumstances, but He is moving us in that direction. There will come a time when the perfect game will be the norm with no exceptions!
"Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God." Romans 8:21 (NIV)
This is what makes Christianity such a wonderful faith. In the midst of all the blown calls of life - and there are so many of them - we have a hope of a better tomorrow. We know we want righteousness and justice, we just don't know how - in the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard - to "make it so." We are in luck because the Scriptures promise that the ONE REF, Who is also the COMMISSIONER, will make it so! There is a time coming...
"... for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets." Acts 3:21 (NIV)
If you think the we're happy today about the NFL regular refs returning, you ain't seen nothing yet! There is coming a forever party - an absolute tear-the-goalposts-down celebration that will happen some day. We don't talk about it enough. We don't think about it enough. It should be on our minds constantly. Every time we see injustice, unfairness, hunger, poverty, deceit, illness and death - which is pretty much every day - we Christ-followers should remind ourselves: "New Earth. New Heaven. Jesus is coming back!"
For today, go ahead and celebrate the NFL and the return of the regular referees. This weekend, when you are watching the yellow and red flags, the instant replays, and the overturned calls, be reminded that the perfect game will be played someday soon - but it won't be on the gridiron.