You don’t have to spend too much time in Chicago, the city I currently call home, to realize that Chicagoans are passionate about the great American pastime, baseball. We have not just one but two professional baseball teams, with their own stadiums, long-standing traditions, and loyal fans.
I’m not the biggest sports fan in town, but I’ve always been kind of partial to the boys from the North Side, the beloved Chicago Cubs. They have a historic ballpark (Wrigley Field), patriotic red-white-and-blue uniforms, a fanatically devoted fan base, and players with great attitudes. What’s not to like?
For tens of thousands of Chicagoans, loving the Cubbies is a way of life. The funny thing is (and I really, really hate to have to say this) the Cubs aren’t all that great of a team. OK — they’re awful. Last year, we observed the 100th anniversary of the Cubs’ most recent World Series victory. We “celebrated” by watching the Cubs get unceremoniously bumped out of the playoffs after only three games. We haven’t even been to the World Series at all since 1945. That losing streak is the longest dry spell of any major sports team in the U.S.A. In fact, most other pro leagues hadn’t even been started the last time we won the championship.
Even when we have a great lineup and make it into the playoffs (like we did last year), something always happens to keep us from getting all the way. Some superstitious fans attribute this lack of success to a legendary curse. Sometimes it’s not that hard to see where they’re coming from.
Sure, we Cubs fans are aware of this. We even affectionately refer to the Cubbies as “the Lovable Losers.” But one thing you will never, ever hear a Cubs fan say is, “Well, the Cubs haven’t been doing that well lately, so I think I’m going to become a White Sox fan instead, since they’re a better team.” No true fan — and not even a nominal fan like me — ever changes their allegiance like that. Sure, we get disappointed when the Cubs lose. We get upset if a player makes a bad play, the manager makes a bad trade, or the umpire makes a bad call. But people don’t love the Cubs because they’re doing especially well. People love the Cubs because — well, because they’re the team they love.
That’s why I think God is a Cubs fan.
It’s not that I think God takes a particular interest in who wins the World Series in a given year, though you will find those who make that case. The Chicago Sun-Times religion columnist Cathleen Falsani wrote a tremendously entertaining review of a book entitled Is God a Cubs Fan? in which the author, Arnold Kanter, argues compellingly that, indeed, God holds season tickets at Wrigley Field. “Wrigley Field, it’s such a religious place to be. Where else do you get 40,000 people together rooting for someone they’re pretty sure is going to lose? That’s a real testament of faith.”
Be that as it may, I think the point is that the kind of love God has for His people is very similar to the kind of love Cubs fans have for their team. Consider this passage from the Torah, explaining why God picked the Jews as his “chosen people”:
“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8, ESV)
God didn’t choose them because they were especially populous; in fact they were the underdogs in the story. God doesn’t love them because of anything more impressive about them than about anybody else; God loves them because — well, because He loves them. “The Lord set his love on you …” the Scripture begins, but offers no reason for this other than, “… because the Lord loves you.”
That sounds like a circular argument, a tautology that doesn’t explain anything. But the more you think about it, the more liberating it seems. Nobody wants to be loved just because of some traits they happen to have. There’s no security in that. Even a beautiful woman doesn’t want somebody who loves her just because she’s attractive. A friend who only likes me because I have a swimming pool isn’t much of a friend. When someone says, “She married him for his money,” we assume they mean there is no genuine love in the relationship.
All reasonable people expect true love to be unreasonable, irrational, and circular. Love goes places reason can’t begin to reach. Naturally, you want someone who appreciates all your good qualities, but what you really want is someone who would still love you just as much if you didn’t have those qualities.
The New Testament says the same thing about the kind of people God chooses:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
God didn’t choose you because you were special. You are special because God chose you.
This kind of love doesn’t mean overlooking faults and pretending everything’s wonderful. Of course, it’s always more fun when your team wins.
When the Cubs don’t make it to the World Series, their fans are quite understandably disappointed. But they don’t give up — you’ll always hear them say what’s become a familiar catchphrase: “Wait till next year!” (Which means they’ve been saying that for more than 100 years now.)
Again, God’s love for His people is the same as Cubs fans’ love for their team. God is patient with you. God’s love for you doesn’t mean He’ll always keep you from experiencing hardship. It means that even when you have hardship, even when you bring it on yourself, He never stops loving you. When you stumble, He doesn’t give up on you; He picks you up and helps you start over. You might have heard it said that God is “the God of second chances.” True, but He’s also the God of third chances, fourth chances, fifth chances, sixth chances….
One person who was very close to God put it this way:
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be a light to me. …
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
God loves you just because He loves you. God never gives up on you. God loves you no matter what.
God is a Cubs fan.