I posted this on my status earlier this week:
"What can we say about a world that praises a drunk, gambler, and adulterer as long as he wins in the ring, disdains him when he loses a match, and blames a faith that won him his wife and family back?"
I think most of you misunderstood my status message. That was not a rebuttal to Pacquiao's critics. It was an interrogative sentence for us to ponder.
The answer is this: This is the world WE ALL live in. I do not value winning in the ring more than winning in life, but I do live in a world that does. My response should not be one of defensive pride but of humility before God, who is God of all Christians by the way, Catholics included. Some of my favourite people in the world are Catholics. Three of my favourite writers, whose books have truly influenced my relationship with God, GK Chesterton, Peter Kreeft and Matthew Kelley, are Catholics.
So to say that Pacquaio lost because he changed some traditions, while growing His faith in and love for the same God, is to very arrogantly say that a certain interpretation of Christianity has a monopoly on God's goodness.
No can say that. And no one should.
In very simple terms, there are two incredibly wrong things I'm pointing out:
1. A world that values the gaining of power, recognition, and money over faith and family.
2. A faith that automatically equates a person's achievement with God's blessing
I am guilty of both. We all are.
And who can blame us? Have we not been taught since children that the student with the highest grades gets the honour and the student with the lowest, dishonour? Have we not watched our elders applaud achievement and criticize failure? The smart student gets the grade, the kind kid gets what? The strong athlete gets the medal, the good sport gets what?. The beautiful girl gets the bouquet, and the friendly one? What about the kind one? Sure there's a sportsmanship award, sure there's a Ms. Congeniality, but who wants those? Life is a competition, the ones on top are the winners. Everyone else is a fan.
This is the world we live in.
Why do you think endorsers works so well?
Because we like seeing success and achievement, and we like associating ourselves with success and achievement - even if it is so superficially done through driving the car they drive, drinking their coffee, doing their workout.
This whole Pacquiao argument on religion has revealed more about us, you and me, than it has about the reality of Christianity.
This has revealed that we sometimes put our faith, at least part of our faith on "poster boys" and not completely on Jesus.
Manny Pacqiao becoming Christian doesn't make Christianity more real, neither does his losing a boxing match make it less real. The problem is when Christians, you and me, take a person and make him a Christian poster boy. We take a good speaker and say "This guy is gifted. God has given him a leadership anointing." We take a guy whose business is picking up and say, "He's obeying God. God is blessing him." We take an active person or a vocal person and say, "They've been so active. She really loves God." When that poster boy fails, and he will because he's human, our faith is shaken.
Maybe it's not a poster boy. Maybe it's a pastor. Maybe it's a leader. Maybe it's a relative, a prodigy, a talent, an achiever, a mature person, whoever he or she is, whatever it is, if we make it our source of faith and security, our lives will go nuts when that source fails us.
I think we should stop equating material blessing, recognition, and comfort as automatically the fruit of Christianity. Those things are nice but they're not what the Bible calls the fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, grace, gentleness, and self-control. If my small group grows, if my business profits, if my star rises, if my pastors commend me, yet I do not love, have peace, practice patience, if I am unkind, if I am evil, especially to those I can take advantage of, if I am self-justified, if I am harsh, and if I have no discipline, how can I say that this is the will of God?
So if Pacquiao had kept winning in the ring, kept getting big contracts, kept earning, kept getting respect, this is proof of God's blessing even if had kept mistreating his wife?
No wonder there's so much brokenness.
This has revealed we have a genie problem...
We think that the proof of God, the proof of His goodness, is seen when He acts for our benefit. When something costs us or is difficult or requires a fight or sacrifice, we automatically think "this can't be God". What this really says is, "God is here to promote my security, recognition, comfort, and make my dreams come true." What this really says is, "I'm God."
We will miss so many amazing things waiting for us if we can only see great things in ease.
We will miss the miraculous. We will miss the overcoming. We will miss the breakthrough. We will miss the beauty of knowing that we were loved at our worst.
Thank God that He is not our genie or we will get our selfish wishes.
This has revealed we have a basic thinking problem...
Two boys played basketball, one of them won, who has a better religion? Any answer to this is non sequitur. Now change basketball to boxing.
Do we really believe the ways of the Maker of Heaven and Earth are proven by who won a match between two sweaty guys with padded hands?
Does this now mean that the world's most accomplished boxer, whoever he may be, has the best religion?
Finally, this has revealed that we care more about a person's achievements than we do about a person. We never cared whether Manny Pacquaio was throwing his family away, or the pain of adultery his wife must have felt, or the consequences of his gambling and drinking as long as he made us all proud by winning in the ring. Now we have nothing to be proud of, at least not something the world will reward him for, but watching his peace in post-fight interviews, and seeing a genuinely affectionate wife embrace him, I think that losing a fight was a small price to pay to see a man's faith and love prove real.