Fall is here (well only by namesake here in Tennessee). But the season has arrived and with it some of my other favorite things. No, the pumpkin spice takeover is not one of them; but baseball playoffs are. And this year my beloved Boston Red Sox are in the ALDS against the dastardly, villainous, maligned, evil empire known as the New York Yankees (Even as I type that name I have a sneer on my face). And last night was beautiful! The Red Sox handed the Yankees their worst ever loss in the postseason in fifty-four playoff appearances. It’s so good when we get to see the bad guys lose, and lose bad. And my favorite thing about all of this…? It’s just a game. At the end of the day I don’t hate (actually hate) the Yankees or the Georgia Bulldogs or the Jacksonville Jaguars or any of the rivals to the sports team I claim fandom to. In fact, if I set down to a meal with C.C. Sabathia or Aaron Judge we would probably get along just fine and find more things that we have in common versus things that divide us…even if they do wear the cursed pin-stripes. All I know is it’s a good thing that this narrative of good guys vs. bad guys is only played out in sports and sports rivalries.
Okay, so I used hyperbole to prove a point. It’s amazing how our cultural and even global narrative has become accustomed to an us versus them paradigm. It’s so much easier to understand who we are as long as we know who we are not. And the conversations and divides have become so sharp that we fail to see that we are all in this together. This thing we call life, this existence that happens on our planet is a shared experience and regardless of how we want to think about the other person and their experience, we all breathe the same air. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul has this to say about our shared humanity, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” – II Corinthians 5:15-16 We can’t regard each other from worldly points of view because Christ died for all. The great Catholic social activist and theologian Dorothy Day put it this way, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Our narrative of villains and otherness and separation and divide really has no place when we know Christ and His Kingdom.
In his essay The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis had this to say about our encounters with our fellow humans, “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours…our charity must be a real and costly love …next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.” In short, everyone we encounter is God’s image in flesh destined for eternal glory or eternal separation and this is who we interact with on a daily basis. There truly can be no villains or otherwise, but forgiveness and grace and mercy must reign over us and through us as we seek to be Christ’ ambassadors in this world. Is this easy? No. It’s much easier to write people off as Democrats or Republicans or Liberals or Fundamentalists or Progressives or Conservatives, etc. But as Christians, we don’t get to do this [full stop]. I must always strive to see every person as Christ would see them…even if they are wearing a New York Yankee’s hat. So may you and I treasure each other today. Because how we treat the creation says an awful lot about what we think of the Creator.
Since the entire world seems to be weighing in on it as well I figure why not…Tim Tebow. Isn’t he fun? I mean don’t get me wrong, as a Tennessee football fan I hated it when he played for Florida. He was a huge thorn in our flesh. But never for one second did I doubt his character. He was solid. I even remember when I lived in Jacksonville Florida and there was this talk about a home school kid who played for one of the local high schools and had made them into a powerhouse. And all of the Florida fans were excited because he had already signed with intent to go to Gainesville. And of course being a skeptical Tennessee fan I was wondering what they were getting so excited about…enter Tim Tebow. And now look at him. He is silencing critics, naysayers and the like in the NFL. The NFL. It’s awesome. He is finding ways to win on the field and off the field and it’s just nice to see a Christian succeed in the public arena.
It’s almost as if he is living out the texts that he has turned his life over to. It brings to mind the text from Romans 8:37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” I love the phrase used for more than conquerors in the Greek, huper nekao…best translated: Ginormous Victory. Tim Tebow is finding huper nekao and it’s almost as if he has super powers. Which of course begs me to question…where are my super powers? Why aren’t critics being silenced by my everyday actions? Why am I not impacting the culture around me in such a profound way? I think Romans 8:37 – 39 is for all of us, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We should be living as if we have super powers. We should be having an impact that shows those around us that we fear nothing, we conquer mightily because the love of Christ dwells in us richly and nothing…nothing can rob us of that. So why don’t we? Is it easier to place the hope of our success onto a Tebow? Is it easier to let someone else be the poster child for that which we feel God is calling us to be? I can almost hear the excuses now…but Tebow, he has the NFL a huge public arena…and? You have a family, a work place, a neighborhood, a church, a community, the world. What are you doing to show that you are more than a conqueror? What are you doing to gain ginormous victories for the Kingdom?
So my plea today…pray for Tim Tebow. Pray a shield of protection for someone who has stepped into the belly of the Beast and is taking a stand for Christ. But also…think about yourself. Are you stepping out to show forth Christ and give Him glory? Or are you content to let someone else have all the super powers?
So now that I have two boys the question for most dads becomes, when are you going to get them involved in sports? When are you going to start t-ball and soccer and football and basketball and… And my honest response is, ‘I am not sure I am going to; at least not for a while’. Gasp! But I think about it like this. I only have so much time with my sons. And granted, I could be there coach and maybe that would work out (probably not with the schedule of a youth pastor). But why would I want to trust my sons’ training to a “professional” when this is something that we could enjoy in the backyard in the evenings and weekend afternoons? I hear stories all the time about parents running like chickens with their heads cut off trying to get their sons and daughters to competitions to “better them” and it honestly just scares me. Instead of being participants in the training up of our children we have become spectators in the stands and we have bought into a culture of consumerism in raising our children.
We all know Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The problem is we have lost the means. The word for train in Hebrew is chanak and it implies action/involvement in the part of the one training up the trainee. As this is addressed to parents, it would be safe to assume that there is culpability placed upon the parent for being the one who is active in training up the child. The problem is that we trust all of the training to people who are not the parents. Think about it…we send our children to schools, then ball practice, then youth group, then music lessons, then dance lessons, then hobby clubs, then etc. And please hear me, none of these things are bad. But where is your involvement in training up your child. Per Pastor Mike’s message yesterday, ‘what are your children catching from you’.Have these institutions just become a service that we buy into versus a means of us partnering in raising up our children?
Rather than enroll my sons in T-ball, wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to teach them the game in the backyard myself? And then maybe they could round up some boys in the neighborhood and (this is a stretch) but play a pick-up game. Then all of a sudden I am an active participant in the life of my child and enabling them to develop not only their athletic skills (they will probably be a lot better than me one day), but also their ability to set rules, play the game, settle disputes, and relate socially and all of this without the help of an outsider/coach/professional. Then I am not sitting in the stands so much as looking out the window as my sons put into practice what we learned together.
Will my boys play organized sports…more than likely. It just won’t be tomorrow. Right now there is a lot of stuff I need to brush up on so I can be their dad.