Dear Friends,

So, what can be done about the England cricket team? As the latest Ashes debacle came to its inevitable conclusion resulting in a 0 – 4 series defeat to Australia, it hasn’t taken long for critics to start picking over the corpse that is English cricket. Was it the players’ fault? Was it the fault of the coaches, the selectors, the administrators? Is any one person to blame? Is no one to blame? Is it the system, the structure that is to blame? No doubt there will be an in-depth enquiry, but what is likely to be the outcome? Will reasons be found, or excuses made? Of course, the unpalatable truth might just be that ‘we’ were beaten by a better team. That it doesn’t matter what the outcome of the inquest into what happened over these last few months concludes. ‘We’ would still have ‘lost’. Sometimes the simple solution is the only solution. We just have to ‘front it up’ to the truth. ‘They’ were better than ‘us.’ Of course, that doesn’t mean that ‘we’ couldn’t have done better. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t any room for improvement. But we should always be prepared to concede that on occasion, even our best will not be good enough. What is true for cricket is true for life. Indeed, there are likely to be circumstances in life that will be for us as individuals rather more serious than the outcome of a series of cricket matches. What is more important? To be better than others? Or to be the best that we can be? For too many people, to be judged to be inferior to others can be so damaging to their self-esteem; so damaging in fact that they fail to be the best they can be because their ‘best’ has already been judged to be less than good enough. Judgement is central to our understanding of the Gospel. Paul sums it up thus, ‘all of us have sinned, and fallen short of God’s glory.’ In other words, none of us measures up as far as God is concerned. But God’s judgement works in a radically different way from the way we understand judgement. God does not judge between us – because we have all sinned in God’s sight – there is no ‘good, better, best’ as far as God is concerned. No one passes but no one fails. And because this is so, no one has the right to judge us, none of us to judge another, or to judge between others. Moreover, when we judge between ourselves, the judgement is invariably unforgiving. More likely to be critical, punishing, condemnatory. The Court of Public Opinion invariably hands down harsh sentences. In Jesus, God reminds us that none of us is in a position to judge another person, but that nevertheless we are to be mindful – not fearful – of God’s judgement. As the C18 hymn writer puts it…

Great God of wonders, all Thy ways are righteous, matchless and divine;
But the blest triumphs of Thy grace most marvellous, unrivalled, shine;
Who is a pardoning God like Thee? Or who has grace so rich and free?

History will judge Joe Root’s reign as captain of the England cricket team. More or less harshly than his contemporaries. We too will be judged by our peers. But in the end what matters is that God’s forgiving love will always win out in the end…

Be the best that we can be