Richard Sherman: Saint & Sinner

Like a lot of you, I still have football on the brain.  And like a lot of the country, apparently, I particularly have Richard Sherman on the brain.  He is of course, the passionate cornerback who was interviewed immediately after making the play of his life to send the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, who referred to a member of the other team—who is widely known as a great receiver—as mediocre.

                I didn’t like what he said.  It embarrassed me as a fan and just made me sad that he would choose that moment to, as we used to say when we were kids, “act like he was so hot!”  [a.k.a. be a bragger].  But I also have to say, that from what I hear, if we knew the thoughts that have to go through the minds of many world class athletes in order to be at the top of their games, we would probably be shocked. They have to continually believe that they are the best and that they can beat anyone and everyone.  They have to believe that they are indeed, very hot.

                I also am well aware of the hypocrisy of the sports world.  We often complain about athletes spewing clichés, and then when they don’t, it is all we can talk about.  Sherman was referred to as a “thug,” among other racially charged words.  But do we call Tom Brady a thug when he cusses out the refs?  I have only heard Brady called things like passionate or a competitor. 

                But I still believe that Sherman broke the 8th commandment which is to not bear false witness against your neighbor.  Instead, as Luther said, we are to “defend our neighbors, speak well of them and always explain their actions in the kindest way.”  Now I know this is football, but football is also a sport that is about being a team.  And as most every coach has said, there is no “I” in team.

                There is, however, an “I” in sin.  “I” is in fact the center of sin.  And we teach as Lutherans that what is at the heart of our problem is that we want to be our own gods.  We will always choose ourselves over others and God.  We want to be in charge.  It is all about me.  And this is at the root of most all of our problems.

                So I found it interesting, that in Sherman’s press conference yesterday, when he came the closest to asking for forgiveness, he said that what he regretted the most about his comments is that they put all the focus on him instead of the amazing play of his team. 

                In our faith, we teach that every single person in this world is both saint and sinner.  From Mother Theresa, to Osama bin Laden, to Richard Sherman, to me and to you—we are all saint and sinner, all of the time.  We choose ourselves.  We curve inward.  We are all about the “I.” But we also are forgiven and therefore free to turn outward, toward our neighbor.  Helping them, speaking well of them, having their back.

                One of my favorite things that Sherman and the whole “Legion of Boom” do is that before every game, they get in a huddle and chant.  One leads with “Who’s got your back?” and the rest respond with “I got your back.”  It gets louder and faster and fires them up.

                I love that Saintly cheer.  Because isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do?  To have each other’s back?

                Richard Sherman is an amazing young man.  He got himself out of the streets of Compton by studying and graduating #2 in his class.  He went to Stanford.  He was raised by parents that love him—his dad still goes to work as a garbage collector every day and his mom works for California Children’s Services.  And Sherman has the back of his team.  But let’s face it, he is also a cocky jerk sometimes. 

                But if a microphone where shoved in your face when you are yelling at your kids, or bad-mouthing your spouse or complaining about a co-worker, what would the news media say about you?  I am certain I would not want to find out what they would say about me.

                I’m grateful to Sherman for reminding me of my call to take care of my team—my fellow children of God.  And also of my deep and abiding need for God’s grace and forgiveness.  We are saints and sinners.  All of us.  All the time.  But thankfully, Jesus has your back.

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