Photo credit: Pool via REUTERS
Hebrews 12: 1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (NIV).
Like so many football fans across the country, I was pleasantly surprised by last Sunday’s Premier League scores. Not only were Liverpool battered 7-2 by Aston Villa, but Manchester United were also hammered 6-1 by Tottenham Hotspurs (I am actually laughing as I type and remember Match of the Day). It was a particularly impressive victory for Tottenham because it took place at Old Trafford, Man U’s home ground, a venue notoriously known as a footballing fortress. These results have not been the only surprising scores of the season, Leicester City recently beat Manchester City 5-2, at Man City’s Etihad Stadium (another fantastic result!).
Whilst, it might be a tad early (we are only four games into the season) to draw any meaningful conclusions about these abnormal results, I do think the absence of fans in the stadia may have something to do with these unusual scores. It is inconceivable that Tottenham would have beaten Manchester United 6-1 in a packed Old Trafford stadium. The home advantage, which often made appearances for away teams at stadiums like Old Trafford, so daunting has disappeared. Stadia which were once intimidating and fearful are now just the same as any random training ground for the away team. So how does this relate to Christianity?
As I watched Match of the Day, I was reminded of the difference cheering fans make to a football match. It’s easy to think that the fans at a football match are just about the noise and the atmosphere, but actually it’s a bit deeper than that. The fans at a match cause the players to dig deep and be the very best they can be. The players put on a show, celebrate and weep with their fans. Had Old Trafford been full, I am almost certain that at 3-1 Manchester United would have done whatever it took to either win, draw or reduce the deficit. They would not have been humiliated the way they were on Sunday. Tottenham would not have walked away with their biggest win ever over United at Old Trafford.
Similarly, the knowledge of the great cloud of witnesses is supposed to spur us on as Christians. Knowing we have people cheering us on should compel us to be our very best. We are supposed to dig deep, when things get tough and do whatever it takes to overcome our difficulties. Just as fans, who are merely spectators or witnesses, are an encouragement to footballers and can change the outcome of a game; so too should the knowledge of the great cloud of witnesses spur us on to finish our race.