Monday night I was reminded of how un-Christian my attitudes can be. It happened this way. I’m rooting for the Clippers in the NBA playoffs, which means I’m rooting against whatever other team is playing well. The Golden State Warriors have been the hottest team all year, setting all sorts of records, including most wins in one season and most consecutive victories. Their top scorer and floor leader, Stephen Curry, has been amazing and seems to be at the top of his game. The Clippers have struggled and have begun the playoffs as the fourth seed in the West. I believe Clipper guard Chris Paul is really better than Curry, and I’ve been hoping these playoffs would show it.
In the Warriors’ last game, Curry twisted his knee, and it looks like he’ll be out of action for at least two weeks. That means the Clippers probably won’t have to face him in the second round and will have a much better chance of advancing. I was thinking about this while I was watching the Clippers’ game on Monday night. I confess I was gloating about Curry’s misfortune. All of a sudden, I noticed that Chris Paul walked off the basketball court holding his limp right hand. X-Rays later showed that it was broken, and, unfortunately, Chris will be sidelined the rest of this season.
Okay, for a minute I felt that I had caused Paul’s injury by exulting over Curry’s; I’m just that mighty, you know. But even after I got over this notion, I couldn’t shake a feeling of shame that I had actually felt good about Curry’s injury. After all these years of being a follower of Jesus, I could still be that petty. I know it’s just about rooting for athletic teams, which is an artificial rivalry and not real life. But it felt a lot like other attitudes that I have toward real life people around me who seem to be getting more breaks than I, more attention, more recognition. I find in myself an unhealthy desire to undermine them, to bring them down to reality, to rain on their parade.
If I feel smaller than another person, I can either stand taller and expand who I am, or I can belittle them and bring them down to my level, so I don’t feel so intimidated. Belittling them is easier than enlarging myself, so that tends to be my go-to strategy. I think this is why gossiping and backbiting are so common in our human interactions.
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek when someone attacks us. You have to be a big person to do that. He told us to serve one another, rather than struggling to see who’s boss. Then he showed the way by washing his disciples’ feet. The Apostle Paul encouraged us as Christians to
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient
to the point of death — even death on a cross. (Phil.2:5-8)
Paul also gave us this remarkable challenge: “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).
So, I want to apologize to Stephen Curry for that moment when my thoughts for him were just the opposite of what Jesus has been trying to teach me. I really hope he recovers quickly enough to keep those arrogant San Antonio Spurs from winning. Even worse, it could be the Cleveland Cavaliers. I wonder if LeBron James has had his flu shots.
— George Van Alstine