Thursday, January 29, 2009

Face in the Crowd

Reading the news is incredibly helpful not only for staying informed to the happenings of the culture around us, but also for conviction to what we are up against and for a challenge to determine how Christ can accomplish and transcend that complexity. Sometimes the stories you find are not expected. The following story, which you probably have heard by now, is a bit appalling.

There are so many things that could be said in an attempt to show what it means to present a Christ-like example, specifically in sports, and how this coach must never have heard any of those things. But for some reason, God directed me to read this story differently. In light of my previous post, and a growing conviction about authentic saving faith, what I was convicted of, and what I would like to point out, is that we, even as Christians, are not incapable of presenting such an appalling picture of Christ. We are vulnerable to the same temptations, and if we don’t counter them with the Word of God and the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we are sitting ducks on Judgment Day, and we are likely to leave a trail of collateral damage that does not honor our Lord and Savior.

In case you have not heard it yet, here is the story:

Unapologetic coach of 100-0 win fired by school

Basically, a high school girl’s basketball team in Dallas demolished their opponent 100-0 recently. The score was 59-0 at halftime. In the fourth quarter The Covenant School (aggressor) was still applying full court pressure and launching three-pointers. With four minutes to play, once they reached 100 points, they apparently let up offensively, and did not score again. Defensively though, they still managed to hold Dallas Academy (victim) scoreless despite diligent effort and hustle on the other side. The Dallas Academy has approximately 20 girls in their student body, 8 of which are on the basketball team. The academy boasts of its small class sizes and specializes in teaching students struggling with "learning differences," such as short attention spans or dyslexia. The team has gone winless for 4 consecutive years.

After the game, The Covenant School released a public statement apologizing for the massacre: “It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition. We humbly apologize for our actions and seek the forgiveness of Dallas Academy, TAPPS and our community.”

The head coach of Covenant, however, remains unrepentant. He wrote in an email: “In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Web site, I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girl’s basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed. We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”

He was fired.

Say what you will about the legitimacy or correctness of running up the score – there is some place for arguments about teaching your team to play the complete game or to never be complacent to the impossible comeback that seems to happen time and time again – but this incident is by all accounts inexcusable. A team that has been winless for 4 seasons, and who pulls from a pool of talent that includes 20 people, is probably not capable of mounting a comeback, even if the score was 59-30 at halftime.

And say what you will about honor and integrity – arguments make some sense about playing to your full potential and giving 100 percent every time you step on the floor – but this incident is by all accounts dishonorable. Sports allow for almost any possible assortment of scenarios, and you can’t ever be prepared for every one, but even though this type of a game is completely unheard of, it still certainly could have ended differently. If, as the head coach of a girl’s high school basketball team, for a Christian school, you can’t discern that integrity means not allowing this to happen, there is a problem. It would be a problem even for the coach of a NBA franchise, let alone a girl’s high school basketball team, where the girls are neither physically capable, nor emotionally willing, to prevent such an onslaught.

In other words, only he as the coach could stop it, and the fact that he didn’t presents him as a jerk and the losing team as honorable. And he is supposed to be representing Christ. I don’t know if this man is a professing Christian; but as a head coach of a Christian school’s basketball team, he does represent Christianity whether he likes it or not. To the world, it looks like Christianity considers sports and winning and scoring points more important than humility and sportsmanship, from this example. Is that true? Thankfully, the Dallas Academy has acted in a Christ-like manner in all this (though they are not a distinctly Christian school), so their example trumps that of Covenant’s coach, and in the end, the whole incident doesn’t dishonor Christ that much.

Unfortunately, most times our sins and the damage it causes and the people it hurts, is not offset by the willing, Christ-like example of those we hurt. In other words, our bad example is not trumped, and is therefore left as the picture to the world of the Christ we follow.

To make this bluntly personal, allow me to confess. I struggle immensely with pride and laziness. I desire deeply to receive comments on this blog praising my amazing posts and my wit and writing ability. I have to remind myself repeatedly that this blog is all and only for Jesus Christ, and I pray continuously for each post that God would use it for His glory and make me invisible, and I do this out loud and in writing often. Yet I desire the praise anyway. When I listen to a sermon, with some exceptions, it takes a strict discipline to keep myself from daydreaming as to how I would or could deliver (or write about) the same content better. For the record, I have not spoken publicly in more than a year, and so were I given the opportunity, I would probably look pretty nervous and pretty foolish. When I sit in a bible study, I focus most of my attention on how I can be the most profound one in the group, and focus very little on how God might be challenging me or how I can encourage or pray for those present. My pride blinds me to the fact that I am neither witty, nor articulate, nor profound, and Jesus is all that matters.

I waste a lot of time. I have found that laziness is a dangerous thing. The things I sometimes occupy my time with instead of seeking, serving, or honoring Christ are ridiculous. My balance between relaxing and staying busy is not all that healthy. I have more trouble waking up in the morning than you could possibly imagine. I press the snooze for well over an hour most mornings (10 minute increments). I have to diligently and creatively manage my time in a way that allows me to truly be a living sacrifice for Christ. I get lost in movies that I have seen a hundred times and spend unneeded minutes on the internet. The time I don’t spend on helping other people or building relationships is much more damaging than the time I do spend doing basically nothing.

Pride and laziness are gateway drugs, so to speak. Greed is another. All this to say that I try to be very conscious of the end result of my indwelling sinfulness. In other words, to put myself in the position of this head coach, if my pride - in winning and coaching a flawless basketball team - or my greed - in accomplishing a feat that few, if any, have ever accomplished, or reaching a milestone (100 points) that is unthinkable in girl’s high school basketball - went completely unchecked, it could easily lead to the embarrassment of a hard-working, commendable group of young girls and a tarnished witness to Jesus Christ. Such an outcome is not inconceivable in my context. But I am conscious of that fact, and I trust Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and not myself, to prevent it for His sake. And He promises as much. But He commands a fight.

My prayer for our culture is that such an example as this coach would be exceedingly rare, because of the clarity in our profession that does not associate those without saving faith to our Lord; because of increasing awareness of sin and diligence in killing it as much as possible by those with saving faith; and because of more and more people coming to saving faith in the first place.

Our biggest problem is not the sins we commit, but the sin we have, and until we realize that, the sins we commit will continue to destroy us. My prayer is that Jesus Christ would be as much (if not more) represented by His revelation in the Bible than in human beings, who have always been and will always be miserable sinners in the hands of an angry God. Finally, my prayer is that we miserable sinners would trust the battle cry from Micah 7 and be amazed and transformed by the past and future grace of our God.

I leave you with the lyrical theology of Shai Linne:

This story starts at the climax, we find that
time’s lapsed- don’t mind that
It’s kind of like a night cap filled with divine acts
We zoom in the lens, on Christ's agony in the garden
Doomed for His friends- it had to be for the pardon
And delivery from misery of kids who speak wickedly
Sinfully, inwardly slick with the iniquity
We see disciples sleep and mock today with a lot to say
But we do the same thing when we don’t watch and pray
Like Judas, we sell Christ out to get the treasure
Whether it’s the cheddar or forbidden pleasure
Like the chief priests, we want Christ to surrender
But we want Him out the way when He doesn’t fit our agenda
Like Peter, we have misplaced, fleshly confidence
But we’ll deny the Lord when faced with deadly consequence
Like Herod, we’re curious about Christ because He’s famous
But we quickly get bored with Him when He doesn’t entertain us
Like Pilate, we see Christ and find nothing wrong with Him
But when the world chooses the wicked, we go right along with them
Despite His kindness, we seek to do our Maker violence
The fallenness of humanity at its finest
So now He stands before the crowd doomed to die
An angry mob who’s yelling out “crucify”
The way they treat the Lord of glory is debased and it’s foul
But you miss the point if you don’t see your face in the crowd.

This story starts at the climax, we find that
time’s lapsed- don’t mind that
It’s kind of like a night cap filled with divine acts
We zoom in the lens, on Christ's agony in the garden
Doomed for His friends - His tragedy for our pardon
Foreseeing the Father’s cup of wrath- it has Him stifled and weak
He’s sweating blood with His disciples asleep
The Prince of Peace knows the beef shall increase
Since the thief approaches with the soldiers and the chief priests
His arrest is not just- neither is the trial
While Jesus is being treated foul, he sees Peter’s denial
He’s sent to Pilate, to Herod, back to Pilate
The violence of humanity at its finest
So now He stands before the crowd doomed to die
An angry mob who’s yelling out “crucify”
The way we treat the Lord of glory is debased and it’s foul
Ashamed, I bow, because I see my face in the crowd.

“Before we can begin to see the Cross as something down for us, leading us to faith and worship, we have to see it as something done by us, leading to repentance. Only the man or woman who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the Cross may claim his share in its grace.”

- C.J. Mahaney

No comments: