Being a Good Sport
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. ~ I Corinthians 12:12-13
When I was growing up, I was involved in all kinds of sports. I played soccer, football, baseball, basketball, I swam and for a little while and even did karate. Now as I am older and the father of three, I get to watch as my children play football, baseball, basketball and dance. There have been several changes, good and bad, from the way I played sports and how my children play sports. But as I look out on to the field at the end of the game, one thing hasn’t changed… After every game, no matter what the sport, win or lose, both teams line up and the kids and the coaches shake hands and tell each other “good game.”
Having a sports background but also a busy schedule, I find myself assisting my children’s coaches in whatever way I can. I help with practices and I work with the kids on the side line, helping them improve. This last weekend the flag football coach of my five-year old son, Jude, had another commitment, so I offered to coach his team. No one would have known at the beginning of the season that with one week left to go in the season, Jude’s team would not have won a single game. Likewise, no one would have known that we would be playing a team that hadn’t lost a game all season - yet this is where we found ourselves.
As game time rolled around I was looking for the nine players we were supposed to have. With only five minutes before the game we had three, and at least five are needed to play. Two minutes before kickoff two more arrived, giving us enough team members to play. I would love to tell you that my best five kids showed up and we won, but that was not the case. Two of the best kids were sick, one of our fastest kids didn’t get out of bed and one kid left his mouthpiece at home and showed up five minutes late.
On our first drive we gained maybe four yards before we punted. The other team ran one play and ran the length of the field for a touchdown. On our next drive we went three plays and punted; they ran one play and scored again…this was our day. At the end of the game with the score reading 32-0, our team, in defeat, put their hands in the middle and did a cheer for the other team and then lined up to shake hands. Likewise, the other team got together and did a cheer for our team and lined up to shake hands. Both teams met in the middle, shaking hands saying “good job” before running back for the team snacks. As I sat back and watched these five and six-year olds shake each other’s hands, I noticed no resentment, no shame, no anger. There was no trash talking or telling the losing team that “we are better than you are.” It was just, “good game.” Even if you look at professional sports - baseball, football, basketball, or Olympic games, win or lose, we know what it means to be a “GOOD SPORT.”
It is interesting to me that from childhood to adulthood, often times we forget what it means to be a “good sport.” I write this on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 - Election Day. A day that people will head out to vote in what, in my time, has been one of the most polarizing presidential campaigns I have witnessed. And no matter where you stand at the end of tonight, or tomorrow, there will be a newly-elected president of the United States. Some people will be angry, while others will rejoice, but I wonder how many Democrats, Republicans and Independents will gather together with each other when it is over and say, “Good game!”? I wonder how many people, win or lose, will accept the outcome with dignity?
This isn’t just in the government, it happens in the church too. A few years ago our denomination, PC(USA), changed its stance on marriage and to divest from companies that they felt were profiting from the turmoil in the Middle East. Some rejoiced in these decisions, while others mourned their loss, but few congratulated the other side, or thanked them for their voice, their thoughts, or their discernment. Instead we made comments like “Finally!!”, and “It’s about time.” It was as if those who were on the winning side were more advanced than those who did not. And on the other side, many people and congregations simply left the church and the denomination because they were no longer on the “winning side.” We often get so caught up in our own victory or our own defeat that we don’t think about the other side and what our joy or sorrow means to them.
Paul reminds us, as he reminded the church in Corinth, that despite our differences we are one body, with Jesus Christ as our head. He points out that some are Greek and some Jew, some are slaves while others are free. Some of us are Democrat while others of us Republican. We are liberal and conservative, rich and poor, young and old, yet we are all baptized by the same Spirit of God. Paul goes on to say that the body (of Christ) is better when we, despite our differences, work together to further God’s Kingdom.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know that despite who will be the next President of the United States, Jesus will still be my comfort and strength, my redeemer and savior, my hope in joy and in sorrow. And I know that despite what differences we might have, we are better when we work together. So as we face every day, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” ~Romans 12:9-13