As I sat watching the funeral of Phillip Joel Hughes, with tears forming in my eyes, I wondered why I personally was so emotional, and why as a wider community there has been so much emotional outpour over the tragic death of this young country cricketer. Isn’t he just one of the many people that die every day?
Most people probably knew very little of Phil before his passing, yet we still felt like he was our mate. We’ve seen him rise through the ranks of cricket, from a country kid playing for his small town, scoring ton after ton in state cricket, to finally representing his country. We’ve seen him in the media, getting dropped time after time, and constantly criticised for his unusual technique, but always going away and working even harder to get back to the top. We feel like we’ve gotten to know him over his career and felt a part of the ride, and so, as this ride came to an end, we felt the emotion of that as well.
Phil was a guy who lived out every kid’s dream, to wear the baggy green! A country kid, brought up with a backyard technique, who made it to the highest level. He was the underdog cricketer that every Aussie wanted to see succeed. His unorthodox technique and his willingness to continue fighting put him in high regards for most cricket lovers.
But I think what made Phil’s death so sad to so many was that it wasn’t supposed to happen. As journalist Matt Cumming said:
“Australians mourned the passing of Peter Brock and Steve Irwin, but there was an acceptance that their chosen careers carried an element of risk. You’re not supposed to die playing cricket.”
Most kids grow up playing or at least knowing someone who has played some form of cricket. Whether you like it or not, cricket is our national sport. It is the only sport in Australia that truly transcends class, race, religion, and geographical divides. So the fact that someone could die, doing something that is so common and that so many people love, hits home for a lot of people.
So as Christians, should we care so much about a regular guy dying, doing his job, just like so many other people do every day? How should we respond to people in our sporting communities who are mourning this devastating death?
I think it is right to feel the sadness that people are experiencing, and be able to relate to those who are suffering. It is good to be able to understand why people are mourning and to sympathise with them. However, I think it is also a good response to show others, and remind ourselves of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. The death of Phil Hughes is a strong reminder that we all face death, and that we don’t know when it will occur. We shouldn’t be surprised with the death of Phil Hughes. Although it is truly devastating, we as Christians know that death is imminent. As Hebrews 9:27 says:
“People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”.
But although we are destined to die, we as Christians also know the salvation that Jesus brings. We know that because of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, we have been saved and have the hope of eternal life. John 3:16 says:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
As we think about death with our mates in the sporting community, as well as with people in everyday life, we need to be showing people the hope of salvation that only Jesus can bring.