Crowds are fickle. Crowds adore you in success and abandon you in failure; laud you one minute and leave you the next; celebrate you on Palm Sunday…and crucify you five days later on Good Friday.
This reality is being played out vividly through the hysteria, hubris, hearsay and hyperbole (sadly we could even add hatred to this alliteration) surrounding the ball-tampering scandal involving Australia’s national men’s cricket team, and specifically Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft. Whether in international media coverage or water-cooler conversations, the tone has swerved suddenly from vigorous congratulations for a triumphant team with outstanding leaders to vehement condemnation of a team in tatters and leadership outcasts.
Choices have consequences – and poor choices have painful consequences. We all know this to be true, yet listening to or reading some of the opinions and commentary surrounding this scandal you could be forgiven for thinking those throwing stones have never made a mistake of any magnitude in their own life.
The Bible records a poignant interaction between Jesus Christ and two criminals as they were all being crucified side-by-side. One criminal expended his dying breaths ridiculing and mocking Jesus. On the other side of Jesus hung another criminal who acknowledged his own guilt, rebuked his companion, and offered a different perspective: “Don’t you realise we are guilty and deserve all the punishment coming to us? But this man is innocent.” Then he gasped to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It can be easy to miss the power of Jesus’ response because we imagine him blissfully hanging on the cross in a state of surreal peace – in reality he was suffering excruciating agony and humiliation inflicted on him by others in fulfilment of a greater Divine plan they did not yet comprehend. In the midst of personal pain he was able to offer the contrite criminal grace and hope – “Surely today you will be with me in paradise.”
As we consider the actions, mistakes, penalties and apologies coming from our cricket team and administrators, let’s step back for a moment and consider with compassion the fall-out for these real, ordinary humans and for their parents, partners, and children. More importantly, let’s not be swept along in the furore of a crowd baying for blood but honestly consider for ourselves, “How would I want to be treated if my worst mistakes were played out in public?” – and make that our guide.
Finally, this Easter season could be the perfect moment to consider where we stand on either side of Jesus – “Am I mocking, ridiculing perhaps indifferent? Or am I responding to his message of grace, forgiveness, love and hope?”