It is the middle of football season. Basketball and hockey are underway. With sports there are fans. With fans there are loyalties and rivalries.
For some fans, nothing matters more than the team. They love their team through thick and thin. They love to talk about their team. For some, they hate particular teams they perceive as rivals. They may talk about the teams they hate almost as much as they talk about their own team. These may be long-standing rivalries or new ones because divisions have shifted and realigned.
This team mentality drives our politics as well. Everyone has to support one of the teams. If someone is not supporting our team, we assume they must be part of the other team and we spend as much time hating the other team as talking nonstop about our own. However, there must be winners and losers. The recent election cycle has made this more evident than ever.
We can be the same way in the church. We have divided ourselves up into teams. We may not use sports terminology, but we have loyalties and rivalries. Sometimes we justify both.
Sports were also an important part of the Greco-Roman culture of the first century. The New Testament often uses sports metaphors to describe the Christian life.
You have to run the race to win the prize. As the writer of the book of Hebrews says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” There are no spectators and no fans, except a great cloud of witnesses that have already finished the race.
It is never about Christians competing against each other. We are all on one team. The struggle is not against each other.
As St Paul says, “We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
When we are divided, our real opponents do not need to do anything to keep us in check. Our own competition and rivalry takes all our energy and wears us down. As long as we maintain rivalries the true enemy has the upper hand.
When we play as one team, we are unstoppable. As Jesus prayed for his disciples just before going to the Cross, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)
When we are one team, the world will believe that the Father sent the Son.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
On this Sunday evening, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m., we will have a community Thanksgiving service at First United Methodist Church in Port Lavaca. This is one of two services each year sponsored by the Calhoun County Ministerial Alliance to bring our one team together. I encourage you to come and give thanks to the God we serve together.