unnamedSuper Bowl LI is set between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. For the next two weeks, media and fans are going to dissect both teams and countless story lines are going to surface.

One of the juicier stories out there to follow, involves NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Patriots. You didn’t think the conversations about “Deflategate” were over, did you?

A dream scenario for many fans is seeing the awkward interaction between the Commissioner and Tom Brady, along with owner Robert Kraft, standing on the podium to accept the Lombardi Trophy as winners of the Super Bowl.

After Brady was suspended the first four games of this season, everyone knew there would be extra motivation for the Patriots to “get the last word” by winning the whole thing.

The Commissioner hasn’t attended any Patriots games since “Deflategate” began – making his relationship even more uncomfortable and distant. Now tension between the two sides has the potential to be on full display during football’s biggest night…and many are rooting for something dramatic and controversial to take place.

Patriots fans have already had fun with the fact that Goodell hasn’t shown up, and chants from yesterday’s crowd involved “Roger, Roger, Roger” and “Where is Roger?”

It’s hard to believe that years later there are lasting effects from a deflated football incident. Although I doubt we’ll ever know what really happened with the ball, or what took place behind closed doors between the Commissioner, the league, Brady, Kraft, and the lawyers, I am convinced that the Patriots and Roger Goodell are enemies at this point.

In sports we like enemies and rivalries. Of course, this story line is sure to create plenty of intrigue over the next two weeks, but when we consider the enemies in our own lives, Jesus calls us to a different approach.

He says in Matthew 5:43-47 (NLT), “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”

As followers of Jesus, we are held to a higher standard and have a greater opportunity to stand out by how we treat people who hurt us. It’s difficult to do, and we can’t love our enemies in our own strength, but as we humbly surrender to Jesus, He fills us with the love and grace we need to view them differently.

Today, let’s take on the challenge to forgive and love in a way that shocks our enemies and reflects the love and grace Jesus showed us when we were His enemies. I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it’s hard to love those who attack me, criticize me, or are out to get me. I pray that I would rely on Your power to forgive them and somehow love them. I know it’s an amazing testimony to the world when I’m able to show others the grace and love You’ve shown me. Thank you, Jesus, for what you did on the cross. I pray this in Your name, Amen.