Morning Musing: Romans 12:19-21

“Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, ‘Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.’ Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

We live in a culture that prizes strength, not humility and gentleness. What’s more, we are trending more in that direction every day. We cheer for politicians who promise not to serve us, but to fight for us. More and more we fight amongst ourselves, battling for worldview supremacy in what is increasingly treated as a zero-sum game. We call the presentation of ideas we don’t like “violence” such that it becomes much easier to justify actual violence used to silence them. The result of all of this is a culture that is increasingly coarse and hard, without much joy. Is there anything that can brighten up this gloomy scene? Ted Lasso seems to know, and halfway through his third season he’s well on his way to showing us. Let’s talk about the good, the bad, and one of the most explicitly Christian scenes I’ve watched in a major studio series in a long time.

Ted Lasso easily ranks as one of the funniest shows I’ve ever watched. Period. I can’t think of another show that I finish crying and congested from laughing. Every. Single. Episode. We usually watch it at night after the kids have gone to bed and it’s everything I can do to keep from laughing so hard that I wake them up. This series has cemented Jason Sudeikis as one of the greatest comedic geniuses of our time. Now, yes, it still has some of the same issues we’ve talked about before. It is most definitely not kid-friendly fare. The language (I can’t think of another show with more profanity per second…though, to give credit, it is consistently used in a way that adds to the humor and charm of the show, as opposed to something like The Morning Show, whose equally frequent profanity was jarringly off-putting enough to me that I didn’t make it through the first episode) and sex (they disappointingly take a hard lean into gay and lesbian relationships this season) are as bad as ever. But Ted is still Ted, and that alone makes it worth watching.

The season begins in the aftermath of the blistering betrayal of Nate Shelly, the former equipment manager who became a brilliant coach thanks to Ted’s ability to bring the best out of the people around him. In a fit of arrogance at the end of last season, he turned on Ted, publicly revealed his struggles with anxiety, and got himself hired by Rebecca’s ex-husband to coach the team he bought apparently just so he could get one over on her. Not all is bad, though, as Richmond was promoted to the Premier League, and just after their first game they manage to sign Zava, the best player in the world. After some initial success, though, an early-season loss to Nate’s team knocks the train off the rails. A few losses later reveal the wheels have fallen off too as Zava decides to retire rather than continuing to play for an increasingly terrible team.

I suspect the season is heading for a happy ending with Richmond defeating Nate’s West Ham United, Nate’s returning to Richmond as a coach, and all the right relationships falling back into place. This will hopefully include Keeley and Roy finally getting back together. Her starting a lesbian romance with Jack, the unexpectedly female chief investor of her public relations firm, has been an unwelcome and unnecessary left turn from where the show has spent the last two seasons.

The best moment of the whole season so far, though, and arguably the best moment of the entire series with the possible exception of Ted’s forgiveness of Rebecca at the end of the first season (I wrote about that here), came in the most recent episode, The String That Binds Us (so named for a scene when the team is training that you just have to see to understand). Throughout the series, the heart of Richmond’s team has been the character Sam Obisanya, a Nigerian player. His quiet, warm humility combined with what is obviously a deep Christian faith (even if the writers never once acknowledge it as such) have made him a sheer delight to watch. The actor, Toheeb Jimoh brings as much to the role as Jason Sudeikis brings to Ted.

In the episode, Sam’s friend, Simi, who is also the head chef at his restaurant, is enraged by the news reports about the anti-immigration policies of the U.K. Home Secretary, especially as they relate to the efforts of some Nigerian refugees to enter the country illegally. When her hardline policies result in a humanitarian disaster, Sam decides to use his position to speak out against her actions. But, true to character, he offers his criticism with charity and kindness. The politician who can only be described as Trump-like, tweets back a response that is snide and ugly. After Sam responds to this with a bit more edge, he arrives at his restaurant one evening to find it completely trashed. This all happens just before the much-anticipated arrival of his father, Ola, with whom he has a very close relationship, and with whom he is very excited to share his business success.

The hurt and anger stemming from the ugliness of this politician and her supporters is too much for Sam, and he has a rare and unexpected outburst of rage in the locker room. His tirade is interrupted when his father calls his name (don’t miss the symbolism there), and he collapses in tears in his father’s arms. After this was are taken to a scene where the two are sitting in a training room talking about the tragedy. The conversation unfolds like this, starting with Ola and going back and forth:

Do you know how long it will take you to reopen?

I don’t know if I will.


What? Why? For who? Just so somebody can go and trash it again?

You do it for yourself. For your friend, Simi. For all those people who want a taste of home when they are away. Follow your heart, Samuel, and that will only weaken you.

Yeah. Okay.

But if you really want to piss off the people who did this, forgive them.


Forgive them. Big whoop.

Big whoop?

Big whoop! My son, listen to me. Don’t fight back; fight forward.

This is simply masterful. What a powerful picture of grace and the Christian call for how to respond to our enemies! The show is set in an environment that is wildly secular and rarely betrays any whiff of the Christian worldview, until scenes like this come along. Sudeikis may not have an orthodox Christian theology when it comes to matters of sexuality, but either he or someone else in the writer’s room has Christian worldview roots that run pretty deep. The scene is tender between the father and son, but it is also a shocking counterargument to a culture that would never imagine responding to such an ugly provocation as this by extending forgiveness and grace. Ola here perfectly captures Paul’s command to the Roman church that we started with at the top of this post. Sam was on track to try to claim vengeance for himself. His instinct to respond to ugliness with ugliness of his own just resulted in more painful ugliness. Leaving vengeance to God and fighting forward for His kingdom was indeed going to be the way through the mess.

And don’t miss the line there about not following your heart. Can you even conceive of a more countercultural statement than that? Honestly, I missed it the first time I watched the scene. Going back and watching it again as I wrote is when I fully caught, and even then I had to listen to it twice. I’m so used to the encouragement to follow your heart, that I missed the direction Ola was pointing. Following our heart will indeed only weaken us. That’s Gospel theology right there. And in one of the most popular shows on television right now.

Comedy aside, this kind of scene is what makes Ted Lasso so good and worth watching (in spite of the objectionable content). The series consistently contrasts the hope and joy and kindness and love that are only ever found in the lives of followers of Jesus committed to living out His command to love one another in their lives with the brokenness and dysfunction of the secular worldview. It shows how a patient commitment to being generous and joyful with the people around you can gradually change their opinion of your faith and eventually bring some of them on to be a part of it with you. This kind of contagious holiness is infectious. Ted and Sam offer an example that is worth following. If you haven’t watched Ted Lasso yet, wait about six more weeks until this final season ends (which, by the way, is a tragedy in itself that the series is coming to an end after only three seasons), then pay the $5-6 dollars to sign up for AppleTV for a month and binge the whole series. It will absolutely be worth your time.

And just for fun, with a strong language warning, here is the whole scene for you to enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Morning Musing: Romans 12:19-21

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