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Lessons from the USA-Portugal World Cup game

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A fan poses before the 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match between Portugal and the United States at the Amazonia arena in Manaus, June 22, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez)

As most of the world knows, the U.S. and Portugal tied in Sunday’s World Cup match. This was a victory of sorts for the Americans, who are doing better than most predicted. But the way they were tied will be remembered long after the match is forgotten.

The U.S. fell behind quickly, but came back to tie and then take the lead. A victory would have assured them of moving on in the tournament. But on the last play of the game, Portugal’s Ronaldo, one of the game’s best players, made a brilliant pass that led to the tie. Now the Americans must tie or defeat Germany, a team that is considered to be stronger, to move on.

I see two lessons in this event, one cultural and one spiritual. On a cultural level, soccer serves to illustrate the fact of our common humanity. Fans from around the world are watching the same game and reacting the same way when their team wins or loses. Players who speak very different languages share the common language of athletic achievement. As John F. Kennedy noted more than 50 years ago, “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

The fact of our common humanity leads to a second, more spiritual observation: the Bible is still relevant because human nature does not change. We face the same fears, temptations, and struggles as those who first received biblical revelation. God’s word still speaks to us because we still need its truth.

So learn from Scripture and the World Cup this fact: how you end the game is what matters most. The world may say you are winning or losing today, but God says that his children are his forever. If Jesus is your Lord, you already have eternal life. When the game is over, the victory of paradise is yours.

The book of Revelation can be summed up in two words: We win.