Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I Hate That Rule!

The score was 24 to 24.  The group of boys I coach in basketball had played their hearts out.  There was just under a minute left and all we needed was a stop or two because I knew we could score and finish this thing out.  Then the whistle blew.  The ref looked toward the scorekeeper and said that's one point for red.  I couldn't believe it.  Not only did this foul grant the opponent a point they also were awarded the ball. Still we had a chance, but now we had to step up our defense.  My boys were all over their men trying to get a turnover then the ball handler went to the ground and the ball landed out of bounds.  Again, the whistle blew but instead of getting a turn over, once again a foul granted the opponent another point and the ball.  I could not remain silent.  I had to speak my mind.

Now, those of you who know basketball may be thinking what kind of rule awards a team a point automatically when they've been fouled.  I'll spare you the details but I'll just say that this is a league with a running clock that doesn't stop.  So in the last minute of a game, there are a couple of special rules.  I know the rules well.  It was just 3 weeks ago, when the score was 24 to 24 against the same team and we lost as a result of a foul in the last 20 seconds that awarded the other team the winning point.  I bit my lip in game one, but now I just could not remain silent.  I had to speak my mind.

So, once the buzzer sounded I went straight to the refs and told them how ridiculous that rule was.  "How in the world can you award a team a point when they have not earned it?"  "How is that fair to these boys who busted their tails only to have the game taken completely out of their hands?" "Put the kid on the line and if he sinks his free throws, they earn a win.  But, to just give them a point is completely unjust!"  They let me talk and blow off steam.  Then with class the head ref looked at me and said, "Coach, I understand your frustration.  But, its the rules.  I'm just enforcing the rules.  If we want to change the rules that's fine, let's talk that over with the league.  But, right now, that's the rules."

The truth is, he didn't make the rules.  He may hate it as much as I do.  While I was ranting and raving how unjust this was, he was actually acting justly.  His job was to enforce the rules and he did just that.  I wasn't upset with him.  He called a good game.  In fact he always calls a good game.  Of all the refs who ref in this league, I would rather have him calling the game. The two fouls at the end, were spot on. As much as I hate the rule, it's the rule.  If we are going to play the game, we have to play within the rules.

My arguments seemed so valid when I spewed them out.  I'm sure most of our team's parents would have easily agreed with me. But I couldn't get the ref's response out of my mind.  "It's the rules." Oh, how many times, I hate the rules.  No, I'm not just talking basketball now.  I'm talking about sitting in a turn only lane waiting for the green arrow when there is no oncoming traffic.  I'm talking about  having to pay 15% of my self employment income to the federal government.  I'm talking about having to pay lots of money to get my check engine light to go off, just so I can get my car inspected. I hate being told I have to wear a seat belt (I wear my seat belt, I just hate being told I have to). I could go on and on but I'll stop here.  Regardless of what I think about certain rules, justice demands my compliance.   

Scripture tells us that the punishment of sin is death.  That's a rule that many may struggle with, but there's no getting around it.  Regardless of what we think about that one, there is nothing we can do to alter it.  To go a step further, Scripture tells us that because of Adam's sin in the garden of Eden, we are all born into sin the moment we take our first breath.  So, because of Adam's sin, we are all born with a death sentence facing us.  The punishment for sin is death  and this death is not simply a physical death but it is separation from God for eternity. There are many who may hate that rule.  Many who feel like its a ridiculous rule.  Many who feel that certainly a loving God would never truly enforce that law.  Yet, still there it is, set in stone with no way around it. Well, at least no way for us to get around this on our own.

This just God must deal with our sin in a just way.  Think about this for a minute, if a judge had a murderer come before him who had confessed of murdering someone and there was overwhelming evidence to support the case against him, what would you say about the judge if he simply said, "I know you're a pretty good guy so I'm going to let you off this time?" We would all say that judge was unjust.  Now, what would we say of a God who refused to deal with our transgressions and simply swept them under the rug?  Like that judge, wouldn't God be unjust?  I can assure you God is not unjust.  And because He is perfectly just, He must deal with our sin.

So, He did just that.  He dealt with our sin.  Because our sin resulted in a death sentence, He chose to carry that punishment out on His Son. Jesus took our place.  That's what the cross is all about. Its about a just God carrying out a just sentence on sin.  Sin requires death.  Jesus didn't simply snap His fingers and our sin was erased. He became our sin and God pronounced judgement on that sin condemning His own Son to death. When Jesus was explaining why He came to earth to a religious leader one night, He declares that He did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it.  He goes on to say that we condemn ourselves by rejecting Him and what He did for us. Jesus made a way for us to avoid this sentence of death by receiving Him and the gift of life He offers us.  In rejecting Him, we condemn ourselves.

I personally hate the idea that because of one man's sin, (Adam), all are condemned.  But I happen to love the idea that because of one man's death (Jesus), all can be saved.  Regardless of how I feel about either rule, it is what it is.  One day I'll stand before God with no fear of condemnation because He took it on Himself to rescue me.  Some ask me from time to time how can you know for sure that you're saved?  I know because I serve a just God.  A God who made the rules and carries them out with perfect justice.  My hope is not in my ability to walk through life sinless, but in a God who condemned His sinless Son in my place and in doing so, liberated me.  My salvation is not based on me keeping a list of rules, but in a God who is perfectly submitted to the rules He, Himself established.  Because my salvation is based on what God has done and not in what I have done, doubting my salvation would be doubting God's ability to save me.  Trust me, God is more than able to save us all.  That salvation however, can only be obtained through compliance with His salvation plan.  You may not like the rules or laws that God has established but rest assured He's not moved by your disapproval.  He has, and always will approach those rules with complete and absolute justice. 

By the way, before I even exited the the gym that day, I apologized to the ref and acknowledged that I was out of line. Oh, I still hate that rule and every time it results in points for either team, I'll cringe a little.  But it is what it is.  I would rather have a ref who upholds the rules instead of one who compromises them based on how he's feeling in the moment.  The same holds true for how I feel about God.  I am so thankful for a God who refuses to deviate from the rules and insists on upholding them with absolute perfection.  Since my salvation experience many years ago, trust me if God was not a just God, full of integrity, He would have thrown me out of this game along time ago.