Wednesday, 25 June 2014


As I recall from my college days the Shakespearean definition of tragedy describes a man who through a fatal flaw in his own character descends from a great height to utter destruction.

A kind of Shakespearean play then was being performed in Brazil last night when the brilliant but flawed Luis Saurez once again decided to begin his post-match meal early.  

 Here is a man who began last season serving a lengthy ban for one of his previous exhibitions of this very behaviour and yet he ended the term lauded by all as a footballing genius and apparently fully rehabilitated.

Until yesterday.

If the headlines in the newspapers this morning are anywhere close to accurate then he could be heading for a two-year ban this time. That would surely end his top-flight career and, given his enormous talent, would certainly constitute a tragedy - at least of the sporting-kind.

That would be a painful outcome for me given my own allegiance to Suarez’s current football club, but nevertheless this is not a post about football but is as usual about theology.

For the verse that must have drifted into many of our minds last night was,

       Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots?
        Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil
.” (Jer 13:23)

It seems that for all the efforts of both his club and himself to bring about reform Luis Suarez simply cannot change what he is by nature. He can play the nice guy for so long but sooner or later when the right pressures are exerted he will always revert to type.

 I rather doubt that the famed Uruguayan is up-to-speed on Pauline theology but if he were then his press conference this morning might have gone something like this,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom 7:15)

That describes Suarez just as it describes all of us.

Man can seek to hide his fallenness behind many things. The mask of religion, the thin veneer of civilisation or the illusion of progress. 

 He can make every effort to bribe, cajole, flatter or threaten his own nature into submission. He can be exhorted by his fellow man to “get help” but the fact is that there is no "help" available for his fallenness. It is far beyond help. 

 He might for a while pretend that this is not so. He can fool even himself that he has become master of his own flesh. But sooner or later the fangs of his sinful nature will be displayed once more.

He cannot do anything about it. It is what he is.

 Every change he attempts is merely a rearrangement of externals when what is needed is a transformation from within.   

So do not shake your head in disbelief at Luis Suarez this morning.   

He is you.

Utterly helpless to change what you are by nature. Wholly dependent upon a sovereign move of God to quicken your cold and dead heart.  

Mere reform accomplishes nothing in the great football game of life.  A new creation must take the field.

Can the leopard change his spots? No, nor its teeth either it would seem.

But Christ can change all.

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! “ (Rom 7:24-25)