by Rev. Blaine R. WengeR



Recently, there has been quite a bit of high-level soccer – or as the rest of the world calls it – football on TV. Overlapping, has been the Euro 2024 (European Championship Tournament) and Copa America 2024 (North and South American Championship Tournament). I’m ready for some American Football in a few weeks. But I do enjoy watching high level soccer. When I was in school, I played soccer. Not well; I was a backup. But I did have a few moments of glory. These guys, representing their countries, DO play well! Knowing a little bit, the skill involved, often, I marvel at what I see. Their skill, precision, athleticism and endurance are vastly superior to anything I ever displayed.

If soccer is not your thing, perhaps you can relate with some other interest of yours – you enjoy golf, but watching a professional leaves you slightly in awe. You like to garden. You go to Longwood, and you are blown away. You play an instrument. Listening to a master can be sublime.

Anyway, watching these skilled, dedicated athletes competing at such a level is fun for me to watch. Except, there is a sad side to it. It seems almost epidemic in soccer today, that you have a large number of athletes that will do what they can, to try to gain an advantage. Many sports have had, and continue to have, their issues with performance enhancing drugs. That is not what I am talking about. You can be watching a soccer match, two teams playing hard, there is a close play, and one of the players acts up like they were fouled, trying to gain an advantage. Two players come together, and one (or sometimes both) will act like they have been illegally contacted or interfered with. Sometimes, they really don’t come together at all, it just looked close. Still, one player will wind up flopping on the ground, seemingly writhing in pain, stopping the game, needing medical attention – hoping to win the ball for their team. After a little bit of this acting, where it seemed like they would need an ambulance, they hop back up and sprint off. Too often, mission accomplished, they stopped the momentum of the other team; they got the ball back for their team.  I wish there was a retroactive review – in the game – where a team could replay these calls and if a player is found to be flopping, they are penalized and some kind of advantage is given back to the team that was wronged.  Of course, that doesn’t happen, so players continue to do what they can, sometimes looking just ridiculous, to gain whatever advantage they can.

Of course, in virtually every aspect of life, every walk of life, there will be those who try to take advantage in whatever way that they can. In politics, at work, in the kid’s sports leagues, even in church, everywhere it seems, there are those who seek to take advantage for themselves. It isn’t wrong to call this out. But, very often calling it out, or trying to, goes very badly, sucking you into a world of controversy and negativity that seems endless. Some will want to respond in kind.  Everybody is doing it, why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I try to take advantage of whatever I can? Work the system, or beat the system in whatever way I can?

While it is probably impossible to go through life untouched by such behaviors from others in the many circles and systems that we are a part of, this is not the way for a follower of Christ.  Whether others are acting this way or not, the way that pleases God is to walk and act with integrity.

Proverbs 11:3 “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.”

Proverbs 20:7 “The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.”
Psalm 26:11 (NIV) says, “I lead a blameless life; deliver me and be merciful to me.”  Other translations read, “As for me, I shall walk in my integrity …”

The Bible is full of stories where an underlying theme is integrity. We should be full of integrity too; no matter what others do. It isn’t always easy. We may feel like we are being taken advantage of. Indeed, we might be. But what God values most of all in us, is our heart; not success or recognition in the world. Life is not a game. But be intentional to play the right way. You never know who is watching. Some may have no other way to see Jesus than through you.

Grace, Mercy, and Peace,
Pastor Blaine