I like soccer as much as the next fan – and even though I was pulling for France (#allez les bleus!), it seems rather a stretch to imagine that anyone, even a loving sister, could compare the reconciling work of God on the cross to the work of a soccer player on a field. As Christians, we believe that Christ’s suffering on the cross is for us – and for all of humanity. That in his suffering and death, we are able to find eternal life. We also believe that this suffering has nothing to do with competition - that it is intended to draw each of us and all of us closer to God. While Ronaldo was helpful to Portugal on the field, I can’t imagine that his suffering helped in any way to yield a victory – let alone eternal life. Even fame, the wave of news cycle glory that comes after this victory, will eventually fade and fail. I think the French would have a tough time finding the reconciling love of God in their game against Portugal.
Also, let’s remember that Christ’s own suffering led to his death. It was at the hands of violent men, using vicious tools to wound and kill. He was killed because of his political and religious views. Because he refused to bow to the powers of the day. Because he continued to lift up the poor, outcast, and oppressed. Christ was murdered for the sake of his love – love that he refused to deny or ignore. Love that, in the end, was stronger even than death. Ronaldo’s trip and fall on the soccer field rather pales in comparison. Though he might be a hero for those who wear red Ronaldo jerseys, I struggle to see the connection between his injury and the salvation of the world.
We human creatures have a terrible knack for raising ourselves to the level of God. This desire manifests in some of the oldest stories of society – Christian or not. We find it in the story of Noah’s Ark, the Greek mythology, and in other ancient traditions from all over the world. We like to believe that we are masters of our own universe, that we have created something immortal, and perhaps that we can even rival the fame of God. Perhaps this desire is rooted in our fear of finality, in our fear of death. But this desire to be a god, and this penchant for lifting famous people or sports heroes to that level is detrimental not only to our society, but also to our faith. It limits our ability to see ourselves as we really are. It snuffs out the possibility that we might relate to each other as “normal people.” And it fundamentally denies the omnipotence of God.
So, I must say that while I find it rather laughable that Ronaldo’s sister would like to compare his injury to the suffering of Christ, I also find it rather symbolic of our human need to compete with the divine. What other outrageous comparisons have you heard? How else have you seen us try to build ourselves up? Why do you think we do this? Is it our fear of death? And what is it that keeps us from being willing to submit to the power of a greater being?