Ted Lasso is a show about an American college football coach who is hired to coach an English Premier League soccer team.
It’s a little bit about nefarious scheming; and it’s a little bit about Ted being a fish our of water; and it’s a lot about Ted being a doggedly kind person even though he is unwittingly involved in a nefarious scheme and very much a fish out of water.
He’s the kind of guy who bakes cookies for his boss… and sees the potential in every player… and strives to help everyone be their best.
And I’m telling you this because there’s this scene:
Rupert is the former owner of the team that Ted coaches. He’s a bit of a bully and he’s been trying to regain control of the team. And Ted and Rupert happen to meet in the pub where Ted usually hangs out.
And Rupert challenges Ted to a game of darts. An interesting game of darts. If Rupert wins, he gets to chose the starting lineup for the last two games of the season. If Ted wins, Rupert has to stay away from the owners’ box for as long as his successor is in charge.
The scene cuts, and we’re down to Ted’s last round. We’re down to Ted’s last three darts. And he needs to hit exactly two triple twenties and one bullseye to win. And that is hard. And so our protagonist does one of those things that protagonists do in shows like this. He starts talking.
He tells this story about how people have always underestimated him and about how it used to really bother him. And then, one day, when he was driving his son to school, he saw this quote attributed to Walt Whitman painted on a wall: Be curious, not judgmental.
Dart. Triple Twenty.
He continues the story. He’s driving away from dropping off his son and it hits him. The people who used to belittle him thought that they had it all figured out. So they judged everyone and everything. And who he was had nothing to do with the fact that they underestimated him.
They just weren’t curious. Because if they had been curious, they would have asked questions. Questions like, “Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?”
Dart. Triple Twenty.
And the story’s done, but he continues by telling Rupert that, if he had been curious… if he had asked that question… if he hadn’t been so quick to judge and underestimate… then Ted would have told him that he grew up playing darts every afternoon at a sports bar with his father.
Dart. Bullseye. Win.
It’s a beautiful speech. It’s a beautiful scene.
Part of what’s beautiful about it is that at no point is Ted anything but kind. Even to this bully.
And part of what’s beautiful is that Ted teaches that bully a lesson—a lesson that gives us a window into Ted’s own dogged kindness—be curious, not judgmental.
Today we are continuing our summer sermon series about being a blessing: leading with love, praying often, practicing peace, giving thanks, being joyful, being kind, doing good, having courage, working for justice, being the light, and encouraging others.
And today, we are talking about being kind.
And I want to be clear here, because this is important. We are not talking about being polite. We are not talking about conforming to the rules. We are not talking about going along to get along.
We are talking about being kind. And being kind is wild and dangerous and full of grace.
In our reading today, we’re catching Jesus in the middle of a sermon. You see, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus spends his nights praying on a mountain. And on this day, he comes down the mountain to a plain… and he is absolutely mobbed by his disciples… and by people who want to have their sicknesses cured… and by people who want their unclean spirits cast out.
And everyone is reaching out toward him. Hey, won’t you touch, won’t you heal me, Christ?
So Jesus does one of the things that Jesus does in the gospels. He starts talking.
Love your enemies. Love your enemies. Do good to people who hate you. Bless people who curse you. Pray for people who abuse you. Do to others—no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey or what they’ve done to you—as you would have them do to you.
‘Cause let’s be honest: anyone can love the people who love them back. It’s easy to lend to someone when you know that they’ll get you back on Tuesday… with interest. So do the thing that is bananas. Do the thing that is wild and dangerous and full of grace. Be kind to the people who won’t pay you back. Be kind to the people who can’t pay you back. After all, God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
So be merciful. Just like God is merciful.
I don’t need to tell you how kind God has been to us. I don’t need to tell you how God has been kind to us. A world made and broken and restored; a cross and a tomb and a resurrection. God keeps taking the burden of our sins and putting them as far away from us as east is from west.
God is kind. God is kind to the ungrateful. God is kind to the wicked. God is kind to us. And that’s an understatement. Kind doesn’t even begin to cover it.
And here is Jesus, telling us to be merciful just like God is merciful. Here is Jesus, telling us to be kind just like God is kind.
It’s a big ask. It’s a heavy lift. It’s probably more than we can do on our own.
There’s this thing that we tend to do when we run up against big asks and heavy lifts and things that are more than we can do on our own. We try to make a rule.
We take a little phrase—a phrase like do to others as you would have them do to you—and we make it into a golden rule. And we say things like, “If you follow the golden rule, you’ll be good. Because that’s what kindness is.”
But the thing about rules is that rules are imperfect.
A while ago, some people noticed that the golden rule was imperfect. People noticed that if I focus on doing to others as I would have them do to me if I were in the same position, then I’m putting me at the center. And what I think that I would want if I was in that other person’s position isn’t necessary what that person, who actually is in that position right now actually wants… or actually needs.
And I don’t know if you’ve met people, but there’s this thing that we tend to do when we run up against an imperfect rule. We try to make a better rule.
So they took a different phrase and they called it the platinum rule: do to others as they would have you do to them. And they say, “If you follow the platinum rule, you’ll be good. Because that’s what kindness is.”
But the thing about rules is that rules are imperfect.
And it doesn’t take long to notice that we don’t always want what we actually need. I know this, because I want ice cream for breakfast. And I know addicts who want another pill or another drink. And I’ve read the stories about multi-billionaires who want more money.
And if the golden rule is imperfect because we don’t always want the right things for other people, then the platinum rule is imperfect because we don’t always want the right things for ourselves.
And I’ll be honest. I suspect that there is no rule for kindness. In fact, I’ll take that even further, I suspect that kindness—I suspect that being kind just like God is kind—sometimes calls on us to break the rules that we know… to do things that are wild and dangerous and full of grace… to do things that the world tells us are absolutely bananas, like loving our enemies and being good to the folks who won’t give us anything in return.
But if we were going to have a rule, I think the golden one is pretty good, even if it is imperfect: do to others as you would have them do to you. And I think that’s especially true if we pair it with an attitude like be curious, not judgmental.
Being kind like God is kind might be a big ask and a heavy lift and more than we can do on our own. But suspending judgment and cultivating curiosity is something that we can do.
And when we start with asking questions and getting to know each other… that can turn into building relationships and creating communities… which can turn into giving advice and taking criticism… which can turn into learning what we need and what others need… which can turn into bringing out the best in each other and lifting each other up.
And, with the grace of God, that can turn into a world that is full of kindness. A world where we are blessed by each other and by God. A world where we are blessings to each other and to God.