The Cross and Cricket … Who Are We Under Pressure?

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A crisis has overtaken the country. The Australian cricket team, which it seems likes to play close to the ethical lines of the game, has taken one huge step over – or at least its captain and vice-captain have.

It’s been revealed that this ‘brains-trust’ hatched a plan to tamper with the ball and enlisted the help of a ‘green’ player to do the dirty work!

How could this happen? Was it just a ‘brain fade’ over lunch? The team was under pressure and were being soundly outclassed. When winning is so important, what do you do? Is cheating the only option? Why choose that path?

Surely it is more than a brain fade. I think the reality is that pressure strips away surface inhibitions and restraints, and what is deep within the soul or the character of a person is revealed. This is true of all of us.

This cricketing controversy (with a global audience) has been unfolding in the news during Passion Week – the last week of Jesus’ life which ended in his crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

Forget the pressure of captaining a cricket team – if ever there was a man under pressure it was Jesus… He suffered more than sleepless nights – in the Garden of Gethsemane his spirit was in agony, he pleaded with his Heavenly Father for a change of plan, and his sweat became like great drops of blood.

He knew terrifying physical suffering awaited him. It was not the outcome of a cricket match at stake, but his own life and eternal future of every person who had ever lived or ever would live. He knew that the physical suffering would be nothing compared to the spiritual suffering as he would bear the sin of all humanity and the wrath of God would be poured out ion him in our place – as he suffered on the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.”

While hanging on the cross in exquisite agony Jesus was taunted by the religious leaders, the soldiers, the crowds and even the men being crucified with him: “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

He could have given in to the pain and the pressure. He could have come down and healed himself. But that, of course, would not just be cheating, it would be to abandon the game plan worked out in eternity past in the counsel of the trinity, and to fail all who looked in anticipation to the coming Messiah and all now would look back and believe in him.

It is under this indescribable pressure that we see the perfect character of the Son of God who prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done,” as he held more than the pride of a nation in his hands – it was the future of humanity.

When we are under extreme pressure what is deep inside us comes out, and sometimes it’s pretty ugly. When Jesus, in his humanity, was under extreme pressure, who he is was truly revealed. What do we see? Faithfulness and obedience to finish the course when everything inside him cried out ‘don’t do it;’ self-sacrificing love as he gave his life for others (not for faithful friends, but for rebels, not for righteous people but for sinners); the desire to glorify the Father and to love us to the utter limit!

Despite our disappointment in our cricket leaders under pressure, we can give thanks to God for who Jesus is under pressure – the faithful glorious Son of God who so loved us that he gave himself for us! He is the one we can unshakably trust and put our hope in, and our only fitting response is to believe and rest our eternal destiny in what he has already done for us. As we do though, we commit ourselves to follow him; we realise that the cross is not only God’s provision for our salvation but also our transformation, and it Is through the cross that His gracious work in us can enable us to also glorify him when our lives also come under pressure. It is then that the character he is forming in us is clearly seen.

A (Not-so) Subtle Influence

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Growing up I used to be a bit of a Star Trek fan (“beam me up Scottie”), so I decided to have a look at the latest series – Star Trek: Discovery.

I was quite enjoying the series until episode 5. The episode contained 2 surprising uses of the f-bomb in quick succession – it was surprising because it was totally out of place in the context; in fact, it seemed slipped in as something consciously ‘a bit naughty’ but at the same time affirmed by repetition. As a further surprise, the episode ended with a clear inference that the on-board doctor and chief scientist are in a gay relationship – something just thrown into the show because they can.

I was left wondering WHY? Why do producers and script writers inevitably seem to crawl into this gutter? Why introduce it to Star Trek?

Whilst we don’t have any control over what is produced, we do have control over what we take in – so I won’t be watching it anymore, and I am left to lament that even Star Trek is not safe from the social engineering agenda of the Hollywood elite.  

It also raises the question of the habits we allow ourselves, and it brought to mind the warning of Jamie Smith in his recent book You Are What You Love: “…cultural liturgies are not just one-off events that you unwittingly do; more significantly, they are formative practices that do something to you, unconsciously but effectively turning your heart to the songs of Babylon rather than the songs of Zion (Ps 137).”

The idea is that we do not just act upon our environment, but our environment, through the very actions we engage in, acts upon us, shaping us, moulding what we love, which in turn sets the direction of our lives.

We therefore need to be careful about the habits we form; to be careful to give ourselves to habits that shape our souls in righteousness and godliness, and to avoid habits that militate against that. In writing to the Colossians, Paul, being conscious that our ability to live godly lives is shaped by our habits, urged

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
— Colossians 3:1–4