I have watched this year as a young man I have written about often – Tyler Lewis – continues to fight against, and break down, the stereotype walls. His coach at Oak Hill Academy was quoted on ESPN as saying that Tyler is the only kid that has played for him at Oak Hill that would not be chosen in a pick-up game if you just saw him in the gym. I hear others still trying to claim that he is really not that good – too slow – too short – not athletic enough – or let’s be totally honest with the unsaid issue – too white. Yet this past week Tyler again had an answer for the skeptics as he was named a McDonald’s All American.
Then there is the newest rage of the NBA – Lin-sanity! Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks is the first Asian American starter in the NBA since they started keeping records of starting line-ups. He not only is starting but set the record for the highest point total in the first 5 games started of any player since the merger of the NBA and ABA. The young man is absolutely playing amazing basketball; and in the process breaking down some barriers. This is a young man that has been buried at the end of the bench and was very close to be cut from the team just last week.
How could a guy that is that talented be buried at the end of a bench? (And he is a guy that 2 summers ago proved he could really play when he went head-to-head with John Wall in a summer league and absolutely wowed the crowd.) Could it be that it was difficult for coaches to see past his appearance? Maybe teammates were struggling to accept him in that role because of underlying stereotypes? Granted no one will admit to this (and many fail to even recognize it exist inside of them.)
I am thrilled for Tyler and Jeremy. I am thrilled for short white guys and Asian American guys all over the world. Yet the stereotypes will continue to exist and walls will continue to stand and need to be knocked down… (And this doesn’t even touch on the stereotypes a young black man has to face…)
So how is this a devotional? Actually it will lead us into 2 devotionals: this week and next.
For this week I want to key on our problems in pre-qualifying who we reach out to. I am always aware of walls that are built up in our Christian world and in our evangelism efforts. We tend to pre-qualify people on whether or not they fit the mold of who would want to hear about Jesus. We tend to pre-qualify if we think someone is worth saving – all while singing “Just As I Am.” We tend to pre-qualify people on whether or not we think they would be interested in speaking to us. We tend to distort the message to what we think someone really needs to hear to fit our model.
Paul dealt with this in the letter to the Galatians. Leaders, including Peter, were distorting the Gospel to try to get the Gentiles to conform to their Jewish model of Christianity. In other words they were adding to the good news to all people (see Luke 2) that is the Gospel. Check out what happened between Paul and Peter:
Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
In other words: do not let your evangelistic outreach become one of pre-qualifying someone to fit a mold! What it all comes down to is whether or not an individual is willing to accept the offer of eternal life that is found in the finished work of Jesus Christ!
From the basketball world we see this wisdom from LeBron James when discussing Jeremy Lin. "If he can play, then he can play," James said. "That's all it's about. This game doesn't judge race. It judges your ability to play."
Paul said it this way: Galatians 3: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This led to part one of the InBounds Ministries mission: InBounds Ministries uses sports to attract a wider audience. Sports tend to be a common denominator of most cultures. Gender doesn't matter. Race doesn't matter. Age doesn't matter. Sports cross those boundaries--as did Jesus--as does the Gospel!