I am thinking back to a game a few years ago where the players were getting pretty heated during the 1st half. Our team was ahead on the scoreboard but neither team was doing well when it came to attitudes. One particular young man on the opposing team was really struggling; he looked as if he would explode at any moment.
At half-time we headed down the tunnel to our locker rooms and I happened to be next to the young man from the opposing team. I could hear him huffing and snorting – this kid was fuming. I simply reached over and patted him on the back side and said this, “Young man, you are not going to help your team like this. Get it together so you can be your best.”
One of our student managers overheard this and was quite confused. The question was then posed to me, “Whose side are you on?” That student was simply confused at why I would encourage the “enemy.”
My response was very simple. In the locker room and in the huddle I will devise everything I can to help our team win on the scoreboard; yet the opponent is not the enemy. That other team was made up of young men that I cared about as people. It was not just about basketball; I wanted to plant into that kid’s life. (And honestly I prefer to beat people when they are at their best.)
I was reminded of this story by a church billboard I saw this weekend and then I was able to see that former student manager as well. The billboard said this: “People are not our problem; they are our purpose.” What a great reminder. Let’s go a step further and see how Jesus worded this sentiment:
Matthew 5: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.