I am going to share a secret with you. I don’t really like sports. I know—very un-American of me. It has nothing to do with the sports themselves or even the teams. I like to watch IU basketball and go to baseball games with my husband. The truth is, I don’t like the fans. Teams would be in big trouble if they were penalized for their fans unsportsmanlike conduct. I saw lots of examples of this recently during the Super Bowl. Honestly, my favorite part of the game was after the Patriots made an epic comeback and won, there was a shot of one of the Falcons players congratulating Tom Brady.
Unfortunately, a lot of the fans were not as gracious as the players. I get it. You may not like the team that won. You feel bad and take it personally when your team loses. There were lots of comments on Facebook alluding to the fact that the only way they could have won was to cheat. There were other statements from those who didn’t like the fact that the fans booed the commissioner. After thinking on it for a while I realized that my reason for not liking sports is the same reason a lot of people don’t like church. I believe the way we as followers of Jesus act and react does more to shape what others think about church and religion than any other factor, so when we act like bad sports fans it puts people off.
My husband is a pastor’s kid. He saw a lot of the bad side of church and quit going for a while when he became an adult. He didn’t come back for several years. When I asked him why, he said it had nothing to do with God but that it had everything to do with the church – the people. He said that in general, churchgoers are quick to pass judgement on others based on their past, and they always feel the need to give their input thinking they know what is best. He got tired of dealing with it and he didn’t want to be associated with people that justified being mean.
He came back to the church eventually, but his experience is all too common. The world is watching how we treat each other. When we choose to wear the title Christian, we need to understand the seriousness of that. People are going to determine what they think about Christianity and God based on what we do and say. John 13:35 states: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What does it mean to love one other? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a clear definition of what love is-this is not some grey area. Love is: patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, not proud, does not dishonor others, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no records of wrong, does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. the first verse of that chapter says that if we do not speak with love we are “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”. I know a lot of people who are proclaiming the word of God, but all people hear is a bunch of racket because they aren’t showing love to others.
Kyle Idleman writes in his book Not a Fan, “The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ.” The church tends to think that liberals, gay rights activists, feminists – fill in the blank with whatever is on the news today – are the biggest threat to the church, but that’s not true. Our biggest threat are those who choose to wear the title Christ follower but aren’t actually willing to lay down their thoughts, feelings and judgements of others and love like Christ did.