The sports world is abuzz with the latest scandal involving the New England Patriots, in which they were found to have deflated several of the footballs during the AFC Championship game. Apparently, NFL rules require the footballs to be a certain air pressure, and the Patriots purposely went under that number by 2 pounds.
Now, I'm no football expert, so I don't know exactly what to think. I've heard some say that this would allow the quarterback to better grip the ball on a cold day, making his passes better. Some say the receivers would have an easier time catching it. Still others say this makes no difference at all and it's no big deal.
But here's the thing. If there is no advantage to reducing the air pressure, then why did the NE folks do it? Obviously they thought it was some advantage. They felt there was enough of an advantage to purposely violate league rules regarding the air pressure. Someone, somewhere felt it was some advantage.
And then there is the whole "it's no big deal" angle. Again, the NFL felt it was at least a big deal enough to go to the trouble of putting this issue into the rule book, outlining possible penalties for violating the rule, etc. So it must be at least a little bit of a big deal.
Being a NASCAR fan, I'm used to seeing this all the time. Teams constantly play with the cars trying to get every little advantage they can. Sometimes within the rules. Sometimes pushing the edge. Sometimes going way over the line. In the end, when they're caught, it's always: "it's no big deal. We didn't really gain an advantage. I don't know what the problem is." And again, the same arguments above apply. If no advantage, why do it? If it's not big deal, why are the rules there?
Then there is the big question: How far is too far? How many rules can you break before it's a "big deal"? Are some rules ok to break while others aren't? Why all the grey areas? Aren't the rules the rules?
All of this plays into our attitude about sin, I think. We have the same approach. God has stated what is right and good, and what is not. But we think we can play loose with those. This sin is so small it doesn't really matter. What's the big deal? I mean come on, is telling a little white lie as bad as killing someone? Is cheating on my taxes really as bad as cheating on my wife?
What we fail to remember is that a single violation of any point of God's law is still a violation against a pure, holy, righteous God. James 2:10 reminds us that if we are talking in terms of our ability to keep any of the law, we're in trouble, because "whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." One little violation is the same as violating it all. Of course, that's simply a reminder of why we need grace.
None of us can keep God's law. It's impossible. It was designed to be impossible. It was designed to show us our need of a Savior. But that doesn't negate the truth that sin is still sin, little ones and big ones, all a violation of God's holiness, and rightfully deserving of His wrath and judgment. And while we are under the grace of God in Christ, His sacrifice having atoned for our sins big and small, to flippantly regard any sin as a "little one" or "no big deal" is an insult to grace and an affront to mercy.
I don't know what will happen with the Patriots. Some say they should be kicked out of the Super Bowl. I don't think that will ever happen. But a team that continually flaunts the rule book, acting as if they are above it, acting as if the rules are too small to apply to them....well, something needs to happen. Justice should prevail somehow.
In our case, justice has prevailed. Christ died in our place. God's wrath is satisfied. Our sins are atoned for. But please, don't presume upon that grace. Don't pretend that one little sin doesn't matter. That one little sin is still a violation of God's law. It still would require the sacrifice of God's only Son.
And for those not trusting in that sacrifice and grace, don't ever think that your sin is too small to bring God's wrath upon you. He's not NASCAR or the NFL. He doesn't look the other way. Sin will be punished. If not through Christ's sacrifice, then you will pay for it yourself for all eternity. Even the little ones. So, please, run to the cross, confess your sin and your need of forgiveness, trust in His sacrifice. It's your only hope!