I’m always a little amazed when I meet a Cubs fan.
On some level, I guess I understand the attraction of the Loveable Losers. They play in a quaint, traditional ballpark. Many of their home games are contested in the daylight hours (although that particular tradition has largely given way to ‘progress’ and ‘night games’ in recent years.)
And unlike my favorite MLB team – the St. Louis Cardinals – the Baby Bears really don’t ask much of their loyal fans: Rarely is there any nail-biting or acid reflux for them during playoff season.
Still, the whole notion of Cub fandom remains a bit of a puzzle to me. Wouldn’t you want to choose a side that actually wins now and again? A team that brings home a championship more often than every century or so?
On the other hand, when we do choose sides – whether in our baseball loyalties, or in any aspect of life – I sometimes wonder if it’s an entirely healthy instinct. That’s especially true if the choosing is predicated primarily on the winning.
In today’s gospel reading, one of the apostles objects to the work of a non-disciple who has been seen casting out demons in the name of Jesus. But instead of taking the apostle’s side, the Master simply encourages him to develop a much more inclusive understanding of their ministry. ‘Whoever is not against us if for us,’ Jesus says.
It’s not that Jesus is encouraging relativism. A verse or two later, he delivers a pretty stern warning to his disciples: ‘Whoever causes one of the little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.’
Perhaps the spiritual lesson, then, is this: How we choose can be as important as what we choose.
When we make a choice, have we taken the time to examine the issue from many different angles? Are our minds and hearts really open to different perspectives…or do we tend to gravitate toward those who confirm our point-of-view?
As Jesus reminds us in another place, the Lord makes the ‘sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.’
So maybe it’s time for me to take a Cub fan to lunch – and, as we break bread, give myself the chance consider the very real possibility that God loves him (or her), too.