In basketball visiting teams are naturally harassed by homecourt crowds. But no player ever received as much undeserved torment as Miller Kopp. Kopp played at Northwestern before transferring to Indiana University. When IU played Northwestern at Evanston recently, the Northwestern student section was merciless. Whenever Kopp touched the ball, students chanted: “F*** you, Miller; F*** you, Miller…” from tip-off to end-of-play.
Northwestern’s students were so cruel, Northwestern’s coach condemned them in his post-game interview. The following day Northwestern’s president was even angrier in his denunciation of his students.
Indiana was plainly beaten, but Kopp was perversely hated.
It’d crush me if peers at a school I attended treated me so inhumanely. But not Miller Kopp.
The day after the game, Kopp tweeted: “God loves me. My family loves me. My team loves me. Love > Hate.”
Where did such spiritual maturity come from? When Kopp, who is one of Indiana’s starters, is introduced, he always points heavenward to silently, clearly say to God: “People are acknowledging me, but I acknowledge you.”
Miller Kopp was beaten at Northwestern, but he wasn’t broken. Kopp didn’t respond to hate with more hate, but by affirming the power of love. Despite all the abuse he endured, Kopp had a deeper well of strength that helped him prevail despite that that time of trial.
I don’t know what Jesus experienced in the wilderness, but Miller Kopp does: In hostile territory. Constantly bombarded by a merciless foe. Mocked. Taunted. Hated.
Miller Kopp’s post-game tweet shows that he knows how to get through tough times. But do we?
It’s easy to believe when all is well. But when we’re sick or when a loved one makes disastrous decisions or when our worst fears become reality, it’s hard to hold onto faith. But that’s when God most certainly holds onto us.
Merciless voices in our mind torment us, saying: “God has abandoned you.” But Scripture assures us, saying: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall lack for nothing (Psalm 23:1).” In the valley of the shadow of death, we helpless sheep rightly perceive that threats abound. But our Good Shepherd invites us to rightly know that God’s strength and salvation abound even more – so that our cups overflow with blessing – as our enemies helplessly look on: Defanged and defeated.
Jesus defeated the evil one by relying on the Word of God. All of Jesus’ answers are quotes from Scripture. We can outlast whatever foes, evils, injustices, and circumstances we face by standing on the promises of God. We can even do that when we face death – because Jesus Christ is risen today. His sinless, cruciform life has redeemed us, and his shining, Easter life shall resurrect us.
We are in Lent, the forty days of preparation leading to Easter. Lent invites us to grow closer to God by becoming more fully who we are in Jesus Christ. Give up – or take on – something that will help you draw closer to him: Every-Sunday worship attendance – in-person or online. Daily Scripture reading. Doing something good for your neighbor. Burying a grudge. Sharing with a charity to help alleviate human suffering. Do something to deepen your walk with the Lord. Not because you have to in order to be perfect, but so that you can become more fully alive in what is good, right, and true.
Hard times come to us all. But God comes to us all as well. Use this time in Lent to come to God. Because what you do now will strengthen you not only to make it through a future wilderness, but also so that you can live your best life now. Let us all begin.