Like many Australians of my age, I grew up sharing my summer with Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, and other Australian cricketing greats. My dad has always been a lover of cricket, and its gentle presence in our living room was part of the character of our home, and indeed our family. Since leaving my parents’ home some ten years ago the cricket has rarely featured in my own home. It appears the love was more my dad’s than my own.
But for whatever reason, my fondness for the game of cricket has never left me. Perhaps it’s part of the happy nostalgia of childhood. Perhaps its pace represents simplicity and patience, a rarity in a culture dominated by immediacy and the glory of the now. Perhaps, in a nation whose formation is riddled with shameful ideologies and acts, it offers something I’m proud to pin my baggy green cap on, so to speak. It offers an example of individuals working honestly together for something they care about. It represents sincerity, simplicity, and earnestness. It represents a prioritisation of teamwork over glory.
Cricket has never left me. Perhaps, in a nation whose formation is riddled with shameful ideologies and acts, it represents sincerity, simplicity, and earnestness. It represents a prioritisation of teamwork over glory.
For this reason, when I heard a talented, admirable young cricketer and leader – Steve Smith – was going to be the next Australian cricketing captain, I felt invested. I didn’t turn a game on in my living room, but I was captivated by who this man was. I read news articles about him, I watched media interviews. I was optimistic not only for the Australian cricket team, but for what this team meant for our nation… for what Smith meant for our nation. Growing up Australians seemed to give our nation’s cricketing captain more respect than our Queen, and it was no different with Smith. In a society whose moral framework has been moving at a pace I don’t even know that I have been able to fathom yet, I think part of me found joy and comfort in a young Australian who seemed to represent the old Australian values.
From Comfort to Grief …to Hope
For this same reason, I was surprised by my own grief when I heard of Australian ball tampering, and that it had happened under Smith’s leadership. It was like the Australia I hoped still existed somewhere was gone, or at least seriously compromised. It was almost like the rise and fall of a young leader represented a rise and fall in the moral convictions of our nation. In the midst of the unavoidable debates and accusations surrounding the postal vote on same sex marriage, the fears and assertions surrounding Safe Schools, the tensions felt around religious freedoms, there was something we could unite on: good ol’ honest cricket. But no more.
And yet, when I watched the recent press conference held by Steve Smith, broken over his actions and their impact on those he loved, part of my hope for this nation was revived. I may not have seen honest cricket, but I saw a man who knew the love of his Father. I saw a Father, who stood by his son, hand on his shoulder, giving space for his son’s confession. Giving space for his son to take responsibility for his actions. I saw a son who, though broken and shattered by a glory fast removed, would go home to something real, something true, something beautiful, something simple: a Father who loved him, whatever the failing.
Moral Compromise and God’s Love
What I saw in that press conference was a wonderful imagine of what Easter is ultimately about. The truth is, I am not unlike Smith. Perhaps part of the hope I pinned on him was based on the thought that I was. I wanted an honest leader, because I like to think that I am honest. I wanted a leader who valued relationships over success, because that’s who I want to be. But perhaps I wanted those things because, when it comes down to it, that’s also who I know I am not. I speak of honesty, and yet I know the hidden agendas of my heart… the desire for praise, the hunger for glory. I aspire towards valuing others over my own achievement… and yet I am all too quick to make decisions that serve my own reputation, rather than seeking the good of others.
But here’s where the good news comes in. Jesus’ death on the cross is not a death which calls us to pull our socks up or be more than we really are. It’s not a death which demands we make excuses or defend our reputation. Jesus’ death is a death which announces our hypocrisy. It calls it out for what it is. And oddly, this is good news. It’s good news because in Jesus’ death we see not only the declaration of our moral failings (what the Bible calls sin), but the remedy to it. In Jesus’ we see the amazing love of the heavenly Father who sent his Son to take on our guilt, our shame, and indeed the punishment for our wrongdoings. It is a love like no other which has given space for our confession, made room for us to take responsibility, invited us to come home to the Father’s love.
In Jesus’ death we see not only the declaration of our moral failings (what the Bible calls sin), but the remedy to it.
The prophet Isaiah, who lived somewhat 700 years before Jesus, spoke ahead of time concerning Jesus’ death. He spoke of it in this way:
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
I hope Smith goes home to find healing in his Father’s love. I am thankful that in Jesus Christ we are all invited to do the same. This is wonderful news for all who know that they are fallen. It is wonderful news for those who have something to confess, for those who know that it is time to take responsibility. It is wonderful news for those who know that the glory of this world is fleeting, but in Jesus, the love of the Father will remain.
Photo: Clarke Thomas, flickr