Friday, November 4, 2016

Victory and Forgiveness

Cubs fans are celebrating. Cleveland's fans are saying, "Next year." Boston's Fans are saying, "So what?" But the Cubs' World Series victory and the end of the 108-year drought and the breaking of the Curse of the Billy Goat has me wondering something theological: is a victory incomplete if it does not engender forgiveness?

I'm actually in Chicago right now for a church meeting, and the fact that I will be in a conference room when the parade makes its way from Wrigley Field to Grant Park is killing me. That aside, one of the questions in the local news is what will happen to Steve Bartman now that the Cubs have won. In case you forgot, Steve Bartman is the Cubs fan whose impulsive reach for a foul ball in the 8th inning of the National League Championship Series led to a Marlins victory and eventually to a Marlins win in Game 7 and another year in which the Cubs were left out of the World Series. On ESPN's Mike&Mike, Trey Wingo argues that Bartman should be in the victory parade--that he should "come back to the fold." I think he's right, and I think the championship is incomplete until he is welcomed back.

In the 1986 World Series, Bill Buckner let a ground ball go through his legs, leading to a Red Sox defeat. Like Bartman, he became defined by his mistake. Although he was welcomed back to the team as a free agent in 1990, his real pardon was not issued until after the Sox won the World Series in 2007--not in 2004. Even in 2004, when the Curse of the Bambino was defeated, Buckner was still thought of as the one who kept it going back in 1986. Finally, after the second championship in 2007, Buckner was embraced by the organization and, in turn, he embraced them back. As Wikipedia recalls, Buckner said when he threw out the first pitch at the home opener in the 2008 season, "I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through." Yeah, these things have a way of sticking with you.

In life, we cannot know freedom until we have let go of the bonds of resentment. If I am unwilling to forgive you, I carry that burden with me. If Chicago cannot forgive Steve Bartman and let go of the disappointment of 2003, then the curse of a 108-year drought still hangs over this franchise. The truth is that any one of a million fans, who have dreamt their whole lives of catching a foul ball, would have reached out their hand and tried to catch it. Some are more disciplined than that, but I recognize that I am not. No matter how much I love the Cubs, I could have been Steve Bartman. And you could, too. Can we not, therefore, find a way to forgive him?

Jesus Christ has won an incredible victory for us. For all of human history and for all of our lives, we have been shut out. The wages of sin is death. We were living with a big 0-for. And then Jesus came and set us free from sin and death and disappointment and fear and uncertainty. He restored us to God. That is a victory that we experience here and now. But we cannot know that forgiveness, that love, that victory, if we deny it to anyone else. "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us," we pray. Do we realize what we are saying? If we withhold mercy from anyone--even the person who has hurt us the most--we cannot know the fullness of God's mercy.

Love with limits is not unconditional love. Freedom with bonds is not free. God's love is showered upon us without reservation. That is our victory. If we will know it, we must share it unreservedly, too.

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