And unusually pregnant with possibility.
Sometimes, unique opportunities for Christ-followers arrive as moments.
Not church programs.
Not evangelistic events.
Not religious activities.
Just ordinary moments.
These ordinary moments are opportunities to…
reveal the beating heart of God
live out the gospel promises of Christ.
be agents of transformation by the Spirit.
Or they might also
show the subversive power of the flesh.
demonstrate the relentless tug of the world.
reveal the hellish strategies of the devil.
These moments could
express love and draw people together
foment discord that push people apart.
The possibilities for both arrive through
what we think,
what we do,
…and what we say.
Two ordinary moments arrived for Christ-followers in Kentucky this week.
One came from a gunshot that killed a teenager in Florida.
Another came from final buzzers at two NCAA basketball games.
One was an ultimate loss; the other mere tournament wins.
Now, what do these moments have to do with life as a disciple of Jesus?
More particularly, how are they a unique gospel opportunity?
How are they pregnant with Kingdom possibilities?
How can they teeter on the edge between holy and hell?
It all boils down to how we process these events as disciples of Jesus.
Gaze at them through the lens of the gospel;
see them as a platform for the grace of Jesus; or
watch for ways to savor & spread the glory of God.
The deadly shooting of Trayvon Martin has stirred our culture’s racial tensions.
More accurately, it has ripped the scab off of racial wounds.
This time it involves whites, blacks and Hispanics.
Apparently, we have not yet overcome.
This event has strafed the emotions of African-Americans of all stations.
Hearts are raw with anger, confusion, grief, suspicion and fear.
It has led to candlelight vigils and hoodie Facebook postings.
It has called justice & lawful authority into question.
How does a disciple of Jesus respond, especially one far from Florida?
We can reflect and communicate the truth of God: that
all people, of all races, are precious with God-created dignity;
all people, of all colors, deserve to be valued & not profiled..
So, we need to choose our words carefully.
We need to give voice to Jesus’ heart in groups where this arises.
Even more, we may need to listen well to the hearts of our friends of color.
Why? We have no idea what it means to live & raise a child
in this sort of environment.
Godliness in this case may mean speaking out against racial injustice.
It may mean silence that absorbs hurt with another.
Or it may simply mean being a true friend, expressing love
that will stay near in trouble & stand near, no matter the cost.
In other words, in this moment, disciples of Jesus can be agents of reconciliation.
We can be glue for our culture in a way that no one else can because
we have experienced the power that reconciles a deeper divide.
The gospel is only glue that can repair our racial Humpty-Dumpty.
The second moment is utterly trivial in comparison.
It is about a basketball game.
It’s a very important game—NCAA Final Four, national semi-final.
But it’s still just a game.
After weeks of tournament play, Kentucky will play Louisville.
Wildcats vs. Cardinals, Blue vs. Red; arch-rivals, ninety miles apart
Every single person in Kentucky cheers for one or the other.
Nobody will be neutral for The Game.
People are already talking about how the state might explode this week.
Both campuses erupted in spontaneous celebrations this weekend.
The chat rooms are blazing; talk radio is going nuts;
broadcast journalists and armchair analysts are projecting.
On the one hand, this is a lot of fun,
especially for those of us who grew up in this basketball-crazy state.
It’s a matter of great pride, that out of all the colleges that play
half of the Final Four come from Kentucky.
On the other hand, this also provides a prime opportunity for stupid.
In the heat of enthusiasm, people say intemperate things
about the opposing team, their coach, or their fans.
Anything goes & the crazy is evenly split between the two.
What if disciples of Jesus decided to engage this week differently?
What if Wildcat disciples of Jesus and Cardinal disciples of Jesus
determined to be fully-engaged, passionate fans of The Game
but even more engaged and passionate disciples of Jesus?
Again, it comes down to how we process this moment in light of the gospel.
A gospel lens reveals ultimate things like the spread of Jesus’ fame
and the eternal destinies of every person who will watch & cheer.
Ultimate things put everything else–like games- in proper perspective.
Once we have settled what is ultimate, we turn to the people around us.
Think of the most rabid fan for the opposing team you can imagine.
Now hear this: “love your neighor as yourself….
love your enemies, so you may be children of your Father.”
Maybe you think that’s too much or that I’m carrying this too far.
But every disciple is called to embody Jesus at all times, in all ways.
How does a fan who is first a disciple speak and cheer?
How does a fan who is first a disciple engage this moment?
Enjoy it fully–with cheers, friends and laughter – as a gift
“every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father” (Jas 1:17)
At the same time, be wary of the temptations it holds—
like misplaced emotion, needless anxiety, or trash-talking.
Godliness in this case may mean being careful with our words:
‘Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth”
(even when it’s tight in the last three minutes of a game)
“but only that which gives grace to those who hear.”
So if your cheer gives grace to those who hear,
your life may point them to something larger than the game.
So when the nets have been cut down, personal relationships will remain,
along with conversations with eternal implications beyond a March moment.
In other words, disciples of Jesus can be agents of reconciliation.
Not just to make purple of our Blues and Reds,
but to point people to Jesus , the One who can glue
the pieces of their soul together so they have forever Joy.
When disciples go along with the ways of the world, we will only rip the tears in our culture a little wider.
When we lead with Jesus’ life and love, we can be used as glue to pull people—and society—together with each other and ultimately, to Him.
“If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has passed away, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God….in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (2 Cor. 5:17-20; Gal. 3:28)