Last Saturday we staged what has become an annual tradition for Tyler, Braden, Yale and me. We are a small part of a much larger group. Reports tell us 59,300,000 Americans and Canadians will be joining us as we “wheel and deal” our way through the 2018 season of Fantasy Football. It all began a week ago with our league draft.
Saturday afternoon our league gathered at 2:00 to feast on a banquet of wings, pizza and savor the culinary highlight of the event--an assortment of wonderful, delicious, gluten filled cookies handcrafted by the commissioner’s wife, thank you Jen Driesbach. Let the record show we continued to gaze on these delicacies over the next 3 hours. The commissioner, Matt Driesbach, briefly summarized the pertinent instructions for the drafting procedure. We all then felt obligated to offer one another what were blatantly insincere wishes of “Good Luck” and we were ready to begin. Each team owner sat down at his computer and off we went. 12 teams with 16 rounds of picks. For each choice you are given 90 seconds to make your selection. If you fail to choose a player in the time allotted the computer will automatically submit a pick for you and the draft proceeds.
At about the halfway point of draft I noticed something. As the player pool shrinks, and the time pressures press on, you begin to feel an internal conflict. It was there all along but now it seems clearer. The motivation for each choice is intensely transactional…what have you done for me lately? You can eavesdrop on the strategic conversations taking place around you. They include phrases like, “he is always hurt” or “last year he had problems holding on to the ball,” or “he has problems off the field,” or “I had him last year and he never produced,” or “he used to be good, but he is getting old.” Nonetheless the draft “rolls on”. We finished up with each “team owner” thinking he had selected a championship team.
Big Idea. The realty is our everyday decisions are made based on a similar set of criteria. They too are transactional. Recently I listened to an expert stock analyst commenting on the increased difficulty of doing his job (picking stocks) successfully. He was lamenting the recent market research that revealed a vanishing sense of “product loyalty” on the part of consumers. A customer would acknowledge you cleaned and brightened my teeth satisfactorily for 20 years but look at this, here’s a toothpaste that claims their merchandise can do the job better and faster. The previously content buyer declares, “I think I will give this other toothpaste a try.” Predictably, the market must respond. Old established manufacturers have a choice. Either introduce their “New and Improved” creation or face extinction. That once crowded restaurant with a 45-minute wait list is now a ghost town. The hip trendy store has replaced their inviting, beautiful display window with a “Going out of Business” sign in that same space. It is true of every industry (even churches).
The relationship choices we make are often likewise transactional. I am your friend because of the benefits to me. You have assets that you are willing to generously share, great game tickets, a mountain cabin, a ski boat, job connections, political power, on and on. When they are gone I will be forced to reevaluate our relationship. A few years ago, one of the TV providers was offering its existing customers a $100 credit for each new customer they referred. In a commercial designed to reinforce that point they presented a scene of 15-20 people at a party. But every person in the picture had their faces photoshopped out and replaced with the very recognizable portrait of Benjamín Franklin (representing the $100). Obviously, it was effective--I still remember it today. But imagine a world where we see everyone in that context. What haveyou done for me? What areyou doing for me? What willyou do for me? Everyone is a commodity to be used and most likely eventually discarded. As Mr. Spock might say, “that’s typically human.” It’s the world you live in. While it is totally natural to us humans it is not to God.
God relates with us (His people) based on “unconditional love.” Stop. Don’t skim over that phrase. We are unconditionally loved by our Father. You may be so familiar with that truth it has lost its power in your life. Contrast that with how we conduct relationships, where we operate on the “I will love you when, I will love you if” principle. God says to His people I LOVE YOU.
Paul informs us of His unconditional love for us in Romans chapter 5:6-10. Here it is in the NASB translation, “ 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemieswe were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” God’s love is given to us knowing exactly who we were, who we are and who we will be.
Let that sink in. Reflect on that truth. God doesn’t place you on probation. God isn’t ready to “cut” because you fail to perform. You can not “out sin” God’s love for you. I know my audience. This last thought tempts you to think, “Then it’s party time.” You older folks will recall the Peggy Lee song that includes the refrain, “then bring on the booze and let’s have a ball.” But scripture is clear. Since we are truly God’s kid our response will not be a “sinning spree” but a heart, filled with thanksgiving. And when we do sin we react with genuine repentance and brokenness over our sin; resting in the loving care and arms of our perfect Father.
This week’s take away, GOD LOVES YOU.
“Talk” again soon.