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Zinedine Zidane

Any serious fan of soccer will know the name Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman and three-time FIFA World Player of the Year is widely considered among the best to ever play the game. But what Zidane is perhaps most famous for is what happened on the night of July 9, 2006 during the last few minutes of a World Cup final.


Zidane had yet again led his national team to the pinnacle event of soccer, facing off against a strong Italian side. He scored an early goal for France, but the Italians were able to answer and hold the score to 1:1 before the game went to overtime. France was looking dominant and Zidane had several game winning chances thwarted only by some last-ditch heroics from Italy’s goal keeper. It seemed almost inevitable that he would eventually come up with the winner, providing a story book ending to a long and illustrious career. There was just one problem. Zidane was a notoriously hot-headed player, a fact known and appreciated by at least one of the opposing Italian players who decided to verbally provoke him during a short break in play. Zidane famously responded by head-butting him in the chest and was subsequently thrown out of the game. Without their captain, lead scorer and play-maker, France would go on to lose in a penalty shootout just a few minutes later.


Unfortunate to say the least. It took a while, but Zidane eventually admitted that he had made a big mistake. What would have happened had he or anyone been able to push the pause button in that brief moment before his infamous retaliation, just enough time for a little pep talk that could have gone something like this: “Zidane! Remember where you are right now. This is not a school yard or a back-alley pick-up game. The world is watching. Your team is depending on you. The hopes of a nation rest on your shoulders. This is really not about you, so forget the personal insults and go finish the game.”      


The truth is that many Christian leaders fall into the same trap, letting personal offenses, rivalries and side shows distract them from staying on mission; only according to the scriptures, the stakes are much higher. We’re told that we’ve actually been called out onto a grand battlefield between the forces of light and darkness. The lives of men, women and children are hanging in the balance. What we do matters for eternity. God is watching the action intently from the “box seats”, but he’s not alone. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he describes how God, Christ Jesus, and the elect angels are all attending to whether Timothy will play it straight while executing his leadership role in the church (1 Timothy 5:21). While God’s side is guaranteed a victory in the end, we will each be judged according to how faithfully we’ve played our position in spite of any personal offenses that may come our way. “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Prov. 19:11)


Reflection Questions

  • What personal offenses have you experienced that might be distracting you from being most effective in the role God has called you to?
  • What does “playing it straight” look like for you over the coming weeks?

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