Okay, I'll be up front about this. I don't always like to be the guy who turns everything he sees into a spiritual metaphor. Or the guy to get the one-up on my buddies by "Jesus Juking" them (turning a mundane statement into a surface level religious dig). Maybe the snap, crackle, pop of my Rice Krispies reminds me of the voice of God? Maybe passing out candy in a parade reminds me of how I should treat those who have needs? And yes, I'll even be the guy who loves sports and has run the Christian sports metaphors into the ground. Life has a lot to teach us and sometimes the wide world of sports is great for allowing us to learn from the decisions of others. And that has happened again...and as a Christian and a blogger, I am inclined to share these insights with you!
This basketball season, everyone was caught up in the drama of the super team that would be the Miami Heat when they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to give Dwayne Wade the supporting cast he'd been needing for a long time. They opened their season against the East's top team, the Boston Celtics. I don't know that any season opener in recent memory had as much anticipation and hype as this one. The Heat lost that game by 8 points and though they won a few games after that, it took them a while to get rolling. They were hardly the automatic super team everyone assumed they would be. Why was that? These were three perennial all-stars. They were an easy lock for the most talented team in the country. So why would they have trouble winning? While there are a number of possibilities (team chemistry, no really dominant center, etc.), I think the main factor was that they set themselves up to be the team to beat. Essentially they began the season with a target on their backs.
When LeBron made his dramatic exit from Cleveland and did his national "reveal" as a primetime show on ESPN, he left a wake of angry Cleveland fans. Not only that, but casual fans who were maybe on the fence about King James now found themselves despising him rather than paying him homage. The Miami front office shamelessly attempted to buy a championship in a way that would make the New York Yankees proud. The consequence of this blatant stab at the integrity of the game (whatever that is at the professional level anyway), was that now they have become the arch-nemesis of every team in the league. Everybody wants to bring their A-game when the Heat comes to town.
Somewhere the other day, though, I was watching something on ESPN...maybe it was on my favorite sports talk show Mike and Mike...and it hit me. The debacle that the Heat created by becoming more of a circus and less of a sports team is not entirely different from the life-change that occurs when one becomes a follower of Christ. You see, in every person, I believe, there is a cynic. And there is a certain deviant joy that comes when we find something to be different from the way it was marketed. Whether it was an expensive dinner entree topped with a Kraft single instead of real cheese, a sports team that was bought instead of built, or a person who told the world he was a follower of Christ only to fall flat on his face; human nature revels in watching things implode. There is an indignation associated with seeing people stumble. And for the believer, the clock is ticking.
What's so cool about all of this, though, is that nothing gets past Jesus. In John 17:13-19 he is praying in his final hours before his arrest. He tells God how the world has hated his disciples because of their relationship to Him. And he asks the Father, not to take them (us) out of the world, but to protect his followers (us) from the Evil One.
So have you ever felt like a marked person? Like a Christian with a target on your back surrounded by skeptics who are standing in line to see you take a dive? Maybe someone's waiting to see you lose your temper. Maybe they want to see you say something bad about someone. Maybe they are waiting for something much more drastic. The fact is, if the people around you know you are a follower of Christ, some of them are in the boat with you, while others are standing on the shore waiting for the boat to capsize. But we can take heart knowing our Savior was aware of this in his final hours on earth. He was preparing to be arrested and crucified and what was he praying about? He was praying that we would have strength to stand against all those who "hate us". I think that's pretty cool. What do you think?