Being on the Visiting Team

When you visit a NFL stadium as a football fan, like myself, it’s usually a great experience – at least when you’re the home team. As a Seahawks fan I have been able to watch them play in 2 different stadiums for away games – in Kansas City and in Dallas. Overall, the Dallas experience was great. The Kansas City experience, not as wonderful.

It was a cold day and it was a close game that the Seahawks eventually lost. Some of the fans, however, were not keen to the idea of my family and I being there in all our Seahawks gear. There were many rude comments sent our way, and it really bothered my daughter, who was about 5 at the time. She couldn’t understand why people would be so mean to us, and particularly the Seahawks players, just because we were cheering for a different team.

For her, she couldn’t separate the Chiefs’ fans’ feelings towards the Seahawks and their feelings toward her as a person. To a little girl, it was an attack on her, not on the team she cheered for.

In Mark 14:66-72, we read about Peter denying to be a follower of Jesus. I think Peter could be seen as the visiting team going into a hostile home field. Jesus and his disciples were the outcasts, the ones hated by the majority. Jesus was taken into custody, and Peter followed from a safe distance. When he arrived in Jerusalem, however, he wasn’t wearing his Jesus jersey – he tried to blend in. He went so far as to lie about who his “team” truly was.

For us, looking back, we might fault Peter for betraying his friend and not standing up for who he was and what he represented. But we might also feel sympathy for Peter, for when it comes to standing alone for something, particularly when the home crowd is against you, it can be frightening. Peter succumbs to the fear and denies Jesus three times.

He “swears” that he does not know Jesus.

And then the rooster crows the second time and he remembers Jesus’ words that he would betray him. Peter weeps, for he knows that he has chosen the easy way out. He knows that instead of proudly standing with Jesus, he has covered up his true allegiance and sold out his faith for a sense of security and acceptance.

The truth is, by lying about being a follower of Jesus, he may have saved his own life. He very well could have been hauled into the courts with Jesus and crucified with him if he had admitted his true identity.

I wonder though, if when looking back, Peter regretted not taking that stand? I believe he did.

When you look back at your life, will you regret not taking a stand for something you believe in, or will you be content with being an imposter in a sea of conformity? As a follower of Jesus we are to live our lives differently. We are to hold different values than the culture at large. Yet many of us, when push comes to shove, simply blend in and try not to ruffle any feathers.

If I had gone to Arrowhead wearing a Chiefs jersey, I could have avoided any adverse reactions. I would have been accepted into the sea of red without anyone batting an eyelash. But when my friends and family saw photos of me, they no doubt would wonder what I was doing. No doubt some of my friends would call me out on social media, claiming that I was a traitor.

And they would be right to do so! I would be claiming in one space to be a one thing and in another space be acting totally contrary. It makes no sense for us when we talk in terms of sports, but when it comes to something that really matters – our relationship with and faith in Jesus – we make excuses.

One day we will stand before God and have to give an account of our lives. I don’t want to have to explain why I was wearing the wrong jersey.

Don’t spend one more day pretending to be a fan of the world when you claim to be a follower of Jesus. It’s just not worth it.

Advertisements

Am I a Hypocrite? The More Important Laws

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” – Jesus, Matthew 23:23-24 (NLT)

I was reading a book tonight and it led me to a chapter in Matthew that I thought would hold deep significance to me. I thought that chapter was 23. I don’t know what chapter I was looking for, but chapter 23 definitely hit me like a ton of bricks tonight.

There have been many discussions regarding The Law as of late, and I’m struck particularly by the words of Jesus above, indicating that the Law is not all equal. There are parts that are more important than others. He clarifies by stating that it doesn’t mean that you can pick and choose, or ignore the less important parts, but there are definitely more important parts.

It seems to me that we often make too much out of the less important parts. Jesus’ example here is about tithing. I think every pastor I know would think that teaching people to give (whether we agree on the tithe or not) is essential. But what about “justice, mercy, and faith”?

When was the last time I preached a sermon about justice or mercy? I have preached many sermons about faith, but the last one I preached (just this last week) was about faith requiring action. Faith is not just what I believe, it’s also what I do. James says that “faith without good works is dead.” Jesus in this chapter says basically the same thing.

The Pharisees and religious teachers are not living the way that they are supposed to be living. They are legalistically requiring people to obey the law that is easy to monitor and enforce, but they themselves are not being obedient to what really matters.

Listen further to what Jesus says:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Jesus, Matthew 23:27-28

What is my heart filled with? I don’t believe I am a hypocrite – but neither did the Pharisees. I tithe on my income, yes, but what am I doing about justice and mercy? Am I obeying the little parts of the law and feeling good about myself without focusing on the bigger, more important parts?

I can think of answers to these questions, but for now, I think I’m going to let them marinate. I believe that I opened my Bible to the “wrong” place for a reason tonight, and I need to allow the Spirit to speak to me.

What words is God speaking to you when you read Matthew 23? Don’t allow yourself to quickly dismiss the idea that you simply can’t be a hypocrite or Pharisee because you do x, y, and z. What are you doing with the parts of the Law that matter more?