I’m in pain. Getting up in the middle of the night, in the dark, I walked into a ladder that I forgot I’d left on the landing, and I stubbed my toe, hard. It hurts. A lot. So I’m feeling even more sorry for myself than I was when England lost to Italy and the nation’s celebrations were cut short.
What’s worse is that my whole body is suffering. Ok, so it’s only my toe that really hurts, but it means that I don’t want to do anything too energetic with my foot. In fact, I don’t want to do anything at all, apart from taking painkillers and waiting for my toe to feel better.
It’s funny how, when one part of our body is suffering, the whole body suffers with it. The toe is so small and insignificant compared to other parts of the body, but if it’s in pain the whole body shares its pain.
Jesus told a story: Imagine you have a flock of a hundred sheep, but one goes missing. What do you do? You leave the ninety-nine and go looking for the one. Does that mean that the lives of the ninety-nine don’t matter? Of course not. But it’s the missing one that matters at that moment.
One of the many things that impressed me about Gareth Southgate this summer was the way in which he showed his concern for the players who didn’t play a part in England’s games, whether they were on the bench or not in the squad. Showing them that they mattered didn’t mean that he didn’t care about the successful players. It just meant that he cared about them all. The team was better-off as a result.
That’s what I understood by the England team’s insistence on ‘taking the knee’ before games. I don’t believe for one second that any of them are revolutionary Marxists or want to ‘defund the police’. What they did want to say is that racist abuse aimed at one player – or at one group of people in our nation – causes us all harm, and that we should all support those who suffer such abuse. Thanks to Southgate, Rashford, Rice and all the others, there’s no room for racism in the new England. And that, dear friends, is a real cause for celebration.