How the Holy Spirit used the World Cup to change me

Fifty-thousand German shirts line Berlin’s fan-mile – a leafy boulevard with multiple speakers and screens. There’s one England shirt. Mine.

Fortunately, the same colour.

Germany beat England 4-1 in the last sixteen of the 2010 World Cup - a deserved loss. And yet I feel angry. Genuinely, angry.

Why?

Well, because I’m proud.

National Pride

Walking home, I remember being confused by my reaction. Sure, it’s ok to enjoy the football. To want to see your country do well. To be disappointed when they don’t.

But this? This was much more than that.

My pride in being English wasn’t the kind of pride which celebrates one nation alongside others.

This was the kind of national pride that’s desperate to be seen as better than others. The kind that seethes when the winners rub their victory in your face.

And trust me - in a city of 3.5 million, there was a lot of that on the way home.

Being a neutral

Just confessing that pride helps to fight it. But the Holy Spirit used something else to re-turf the sinful soil of my heart.

He reminded me that ultimately, I’m not English. I’ve been given citizenship to a new country where the culture is very different (Ephesians 2:19).

Citizens want others to become greater and for themselves to become less (John 3:30). They don’t define themselves by where they come from but who they belong to.

Because of this, Christians can enjoy the World Cup more than anyone else. For us, nothing rides on it.

Win or lose, our national identity as a holy nation, set apart for God, remains intact (1 Peter 2:9).

So crack out the Doritos, get your shirt on, and enjoy the game. But don’t forget that in a real sense, you’re a neutral.

Your fellow citizens may be playing for any of the thirty-two teams.