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Questions From the Heart?


If Jesus was physically present in our world today as He was some 2,000 years ago, would some of His teaching parables and illustrations be drawn from the world of football? It seems to me that Jesus provided examples of the principles He taught from arenas like fishing, agriculture, horticulture, building and construction, financial issues and so on. He was very contemporary and culturally relevant in His use of illustrative material. So why not football?


The Apostle Paul drew upon sporting examples. For example, he must have had some awareness of or interest in athletics. In his correspondence to the Church at Corinth he made a number of references to the "Olympic Games" held at Corinth.


I guess I'm something of an "Aussies Rules Football" tragic (as they say). Ever since those days back in the late 1970's I have followed that particular football code with keen interest. Many times I've noted behaviour on the field that could be used to illustrate Christian principles.


For example, there are two occasions in particular when team mates rally around one individual to affirm him. The first is when he does something really, really good. It may be a tremendous run from one end of the field to the other when he outruns and outsmarts his opponents and either kicks a goal or makes it possible for another team member to score the points. Whatever the achievement, his team mates run to him and congratulate him on such a fantastic effort. I feel great just watching it on TV. I can't imagine how he feels experiencing such affirmation on the field!


The second time when the other team members rally around him is when he does something really, really bad. Like when he has a shot at goals, a shot that could win or lose the game, a shot that he would have to fall over to miss. So he has the shot and, sure enough, he falls over and he misses it. Like you, I've seen it so often. Just when he wants the earth to open and swallow him, those same team mates gather around him to reassure him that it's OK. They let him know that it's a team sport. No one person wins the game. No one person loses the game. They all share in the glory or the failure.


Like you, I've seen this same principle worked out in Christian life and Christian ministry. A fellow believer does something really good and people gather round and affirm and encourage their friend. Maybe it was a great sermon they preached. Whatever, the result was deemed to be the evidence of God's blessing and affirmation.


What we are not so good at doing is gathering supportively around a brother or sister who has "blown it" - they have tried to 'kick the goal for the team', so to speak, but have somehow fallen over in the attempt and they immediately see themselves as a failure. That is the moment when they desperately need the rest of the team to come alongside. Sadly, that is often the moment when the rest of the team hold back - for whatever reason - and instead of affirmation that individual feels only isolation.


The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15 (NIV)  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Then in 1 Corinthians 12:26 (NIV) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.


So, next time you are watching football (assuming you do watch football!), be freshly aware of the power of team affirmation and think about the team you meet with each Sunday at Church.

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