I'm almost getting used to the vitriol hurled at Christians in the media these days. But something just the other day caused me to chuckle. At least at first.
As you probably know, the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets, four games to one, to win the World Series. As a lifelong Mets fan, I want to put the series behind me as quickly as possible — you'd understand that.
But something written in the aftermath of the World Series forced me to linger on the subject a little longer than I would have preferred.
Writing for Slate, columnist Mark Joseph Stern pronounced himself "thrilled" that the Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy "played a crucial role in bringing his team to an embarrassing defeat" in game four of the series.
Prior to his costly error, Murphy had been the brightest star of the post season, hitting a home run in a record six consecutive games. And that bothered Stern because he regards Murphy as "perhaps the most explicitly and unabashedly anti-gay figure in major league sports today."
Really? Okay, but why? Because during spring training Murphy, a devout Christian, made a comment about Billy Bean, a retired openly gay player (who is not to be confused with the Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane).
Here's what Murphy said: "I disagree with his lifestyle. I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn't mean I can't still invest in him and get to know him. I don't think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect."
Could Murphy have made his point more artfully? Sure. Murphy acknowledged as much. But the die was cast. Stern drew a causal link between Murphy's comments and suicide among LGBT teens. Really. He expressed dismay that baseball fans forgave Murphy for his comments. Really.
So, he cheered at Murphy's error and wrote that he was "delighted to see Murphy's star come crashing down so publicly."
Now, my first response to Stern's rant was to smile and even to chuckle. The over-the-top outrage, the leaps in logic, and the willingness to punish an entire fan base because something that one player said offended you is silly. Petulant. It's not even really adult behavior.
So laughing and moving on — which is what I did — is an appropriate response. But then I got to thinking, what would a fully Christian response look like? How do we fulfill the biblical command to love those who speak badly of us?
You see, it's not enough to refrain from responding in kind when we're attacked. We're called to love those attacking us or otherwise abusing us.
In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." This is part of what it means to be "perfect," that is, complete or lacking nothing, as our heavenly Father is perfect.
Echoing our Lord, in Romans 12, the Apostle Paul tells his readers "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." He adds, quoting Proverbs 25, "To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.'"
In other words, our loving response may shame them to reconsider their actions. Even if it doesn't, we're being our Father's children.
So, in addition to a smile and a chuckle, a prayer for those who are reviling us is in order. It's an indispensable part of the rejoicing and gladness that Jesus said should accompany moments like these. Even if — and this is hard for me to say — your team lost the World Series.
This article was originally posted here.