The World Cup of soccer is all the rage around the world. Although it may stand behind football, baseball, basketball, and hockey as the national pastime in America, for the next few weeks, it plays on center stage. At a minimum, it has become a worthy topic of conversation at the office water cooler.
One relatively overlooked aspect of the world tournament concerns the divided loyalties of the players. Because it is an international sport, many soccer players find their livelihood playing for teams in opposing countries.
For example, of the 23 men on the U.S. roster, 13 were born in other countries or are sons of parents from other countries. Many could play for two countries. In fact, 19 of the U.S.’s players are members of professional clubs in Britain, Europe and Mexico.
“It’s definitely a quandary,” said Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who was born in Germany but moved to the United States at age 4 and has coached UCLA, the L.A Galaxy and the U.S. under-20 team. “I root for Germany when they play anyone except the United States. I’ve always felt my first loyalty is to the United States.”
While playing with divided loyalties works in the sports community, it can cause multiple problems in matters of faith.
Please join me in our Daily Bible Conversation as we discuss this further.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
2 Kings 17:1-18:12. Today’s reading marks a sad chapter in Israel’s history. As a result of Israel’s sin, Assyria invaded Judah’s sister country, completely obliterating them and exiling many of them into Assyria. The writer of 2 Kings then goes to great lengths to explain what caused Israel’s destruction (2 Kings 17:7-23).
The people of Israel (at home as well as those in exile) were then forced to intermarry with the Assyrians. The New Bible Commentary explains the reasoning behind Assyria’s actions:
It was normal Assyrian practice to replace deported populations with groups from other parts of the empire. The purpose was to dilute nationalistic feeling and so make revolt less likely.
Judah was now an only child.
In an about face, Hezekiah followed a different path than his father Ahaz and became as godly of a king as Ahaz was evil. He destroyed all the remnants of idolatry, and, in a departure from other godly kings, he tore down the high places. This caused the writer to comment, “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.” Since David was the king of a unified Israel and Judah, it probably isn’t implying Hezekiah was greater than him.
And as a result, God blessed him. While Assyria obliterated Israel, they were unable to repeat the same atrocity to Judah.
Acts 20:1-38. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that the word “we” suddenly appears in verse six. Obviously Luke, the writer of Acts, joined Paul at that point in his travels. Off and on for the rest of the book, we read an eyewitness account of Paul’s travels.
In verse 7, we read for the first time that the Christians gathered on the first day of the week to break bread together.
Verse 8 offers an odd detail about Paul’s late-night sermon: “There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.” Scholars believe this suggests that the fumes from the lamps were responsible for Eutychus sleeping and falling out of the window.
Congratulations! You have now reached halfway point in reading through the Bible in a year. Most people don’t make it this far, so you should feel pretty good right now. It’s all downhill from here!
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
After Israel was destroyed and forced to intermarry with the Assyrians, Assyria sent a priest to teach everyone the ways of Yahweh. Sounds hopeful, doesn’t it? But here’s what we read in 2 Kings 17:33:
They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.
In other words, the people added the worship of Yahweh in addition to their other idols.
As a result, twice—in verses 32 and 33—the writer says about the people of Samaria, “They worshipped the Lord, but…”
Then in verse 34 he writes, “To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the Lord nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances.”
So which one is it? Did they worship the Lord or not?
Looks like a case of divided loyalties. From God’s perspective, in soccer parlance, this would be considered a foul.
As we move closer to the books in the Bible that were written by prophets, we see that God wants to be our one and only. He doesn’t want a commitment from us that reflects the people of Samaria who “worshipped the Lord, but…”
In God’s economy, divided loyalties equal disloyalty.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What divided loyalties pull at you?
- What drives any divided loyalties you might be experiencing?
- How does today’s reading speak to them?
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