June 22, 2012
Ephesians 4:31 - Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Hooray for sports, my favorite diversion.
You could very well have missed it, but yesterday was the NBA Finals, and Lebron James got his ring. I can't, for the life of me, muster any interest in the NBA, especially without a dog in the fight. I tried to watch last night, I really did, but as Miami pulled away in the third quarter I quickly tuned out to watch this. With a shortened season, and the Pistons languishing in an era of, uh, non-competitiveness, I can confidently say I never cared less about the NBA finals.
A week or two ago I found this: OKCLE T-shirts as Thunder hopes to beat the Heat. It seems Cleveland fans partnered with Oklahoma City fans not so much to root for them but to root against Lebron James. Hence the OKCLE shirts, and their short-lived brotherhood.
Last summer, I went with my friend Josh to a game in Cleveland, and I saw that wall where they used to hang an enormous "We are all witnesses" banner with Lebron James and Nike or something. For a season, Lebron was the symbol of Cleveland, and they were happy to define themselves by a professional athlete. And when that was taken away, they were crushed. They felt rejected, empty...
I get that. The fallout is natural.
A lot of us joined in their bitterness, happy to see him fail, making jokes about Lebron and how he couldn't finish a game, how he only had three quarters, no ring, etc.
I think people love bitterness. We get to revel in how we were offended or wronged for as long as we want. It's ours, we own it, and nobody can take it away. We get to sink into this little place where we're victims, where the world wronged us and we can throw our hands up in exasperation. Victims aren't responsible. Some of us like being victims.
For Cleveland, I guess it was, "We're gonna suck now, but it's not our fault." Nevermind that, unless you're an owner, manager, or athlete, nothing in sports is your fault from the cellar to championship glory. We're all spectators - witnesses, I guess - and nothing more. So why be bitter? Why hang onto that?
Because bitterness has a way of owning you. To hang onto bitterness is to refuse to move on, to incarcerate yourself, to give up.
Mass-producing OKCLE shirts means that Cleveland - at least the Cavs fans - continue to be defined by Lebron, long after he's gone. Cavs fans: Why would you let some guy in another city continue to define you? Let it go. Wash your hands of it. Be done with it. He got his ring. May that be closure for you. Your Lebron James era is over. Start rooting for the Cavs, not against Lebron.
Lots of people, myself included, have bitterness. You can continue to define yourself by a girl who dumped you, or a job that let you go. I got laid off once. Sometimes, I check their website secretly hoping to find it vacant. Why would you let a girl you once dated, or a job you once held, continue to define you?
Bitterness is a silent killer. We think it's okay to hang onto, but I think it eats you, it distracts you, and it can define you. In Ephesians 4:31, Paul groups it in with decidedly less private, secretive stuff: Rage. Fighting. Slandering. Maliciousness. They're cousins of bitterness. Jesus says we ought to turn a cheek if someone wrongs you. There are some things we're just supposed to let go of.