I mentioned in my last post that I have now started going to the gym. I don’t think I’m going to have the time to write down all the potential blog posts that came to me from just the few gym visits I made so far. As I have looked around the large facility and watched all the people there, I’ve seen so many stories, so many metaphors… it is truly a blogger’s buffet.
I also mentioned in my last post that I observed an early morning basketball game at the gym. One of the things I wondered about the two teams was how in the heck they could tell which players were on which team? When I was growing up, it was shirts versus skins in pickup games like that one, but in that game, there was no such distinction. I was amazed that no one ever passed the ball to someone on the opposing team because they got confused. It was pretty impressive, actually.
My daughter, who was on the torture machine… er elliptical… next to me said that they probably all knew each other. It did look like they had played together before that morning, but still, even if they did know each other, how did they keep up with whom was on their team that morning? It was fascinating to me. Arguably, I am easily amused.
In the days of the early church, when Christians were being martyred simply for following Jesus, they came up with ways to become familiar to each other without being so blatant about it. This is a bit hard for American Christians to understand. We parade around with crosses around our necks, Christian t-shirts on our backs, fish stickers on our cars. We can indicate our affiliation with Jesus in these ways because we have no fear of being killed for doing those things. But the early Christians didn’t dare do that. If they wanted to survive to spread the good news of Jesus, they had to go incognito.
One way the early Christians were able to identify one another without personal risk, was by drawing an arc in the sand. If the other person the met was also a follower of Christ, they would draw another, opposing, arc in the sand to complete the figure of a fish… Jesus being the great fisher of men, you see.
I pride myself of a couple of things. Stupid things really. I think I’m pretty good at telling where someone is from in the US, just by his or her accent. For example, most people outside the southern US don’t realize that there are very distinct accents from within the southern region. There are. Alabama is different from Georgia, which is different from Tennessee and Louisiana. And Florida? At some point in history, Florida fell down here from somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon line.
I also like to say that I can tell in which church tradition you came up. Give me just a little bit of time and I can tell you whether you grew up Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Catholic… whatever. Church traditions put their imprints on us.
Often times the only way we can tell if someone is playing on Jesus’ team is by what they wear. Most of us are too reluctant to talk openly about him. But here’s the truth about that. Maybe, like me, you grew up in a church tradition where you weren’t taught that it was okay to talk openly about your faith. You were taught that your faith is to be kept private. That’s just not what the Bible teaches. Wearing a cross around your neck, or a fish on your car, cannot replace declaring with your mouth that Jesus is the Savior of the world.
The Apostle Paul, in the first chapter of Romans said,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”
What if Paul had been reluctant to speak of Jesus to the Romans (Gentiles)?
What if he had seen his faith as private?
Likely, the church would not exist today.
And what did Jesus say about our timid nature in sharing the good news to the world?
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38
If for absolutely no other reason, I’ll be sharing Jesus and proclaiming his Savior-ness until the day I die. Because on that day, I want Jesus to be unashamed of me! Don’t you?
Keeping your faith to yourself is a completely selfish act. Our discomfort in sharing the good new of Jesus to a dying world makes Satan’s job oh so much easier. No one should wonder, either by actions or words, whose team we are on. Go ahead wear your Christian gear, but don’t stop there. Get verbal about your faith. Be willing to risk rejection and ridicule. Jesus did. Let no one have to wonder whose team you’re on. After all, our team wins!