The NFL lockout has been called “millionaires deciding how to share billions.” Since the NFL makes $9 billion a year and the average player salary is $1.8 million, it’s been hard to generate sympathy for either side. The collective bargaining agreement expired on March 11. The players filed a lawsuit against the owners, who locked out the players from their facilities. Owners want to limit salaries; players want more money.
Showing that life imitates sport, the debt ceiling debate has likewise risen rancor on all sides. Republicans want to cut spending, reform Medicare, and keep taxes low. Democrats want to protect Medicare and raise revenues. Neither can have what it wants; both have the votes to block the other party’s agenda. And yet, according to the United States Chamber of Commerce, “defaulting on our debt is not an option—it has real, immediate, and potentially catastrophic consequences.”
I have no expertise or experience with either subject—I threw my last pass while playing flag football in college, and Janet balances our checkbook so we don’t go to jail. But I do find both debates oddly analogous to my electric drill. Here’s why.
When I was walking in our neighborhood recently, I came upon a gigantic SUV parked in the street with this bumper sticker proudly displayed on its back window: “Borrowing tools is for the weak.” I thought immediately of the drill my grandfather bought for me in my first year of marriage.
He was a carpenter for most of his life, having lost his farm during the Great Depression after fighting in World War I. When he came to stay with us for a few days, he immediately wanted to see my tools. I showed him the hammer and the socket set I received as wedding presents from well-intentioned friends who clearly overestimated my mechanical abilities. He spotted immediately the absence of an electric drill. Since such a device in my hands is a threat to humanity, I wasn’t in a hurry to obtain one. He was. No descendant of his could be without such an appliance. He marched me down to the local hardware store and purchased the drill I still own today. When I plug it in, Janet calls her friends to pray. But at least I don’t have to borrow it from my neighbor.
Compromise is a sign of weakness in our polarized culture. There are winners and losers and nothing in between. In the midst of men as competitive as anyone in the NFL or Washington, Jesus chose to wash feet. No Jew could be made to do this, not even a slave. He washed the dust-caked, sweaty feet of the disciple who would betray him to be crucified, and the disciple who would deny knowing him, and the disciples who would abandon him. And he told us to do the same: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15).
With this promise: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (v. 35). Who will know that you’re a Christian today?