Bill Heth | Contributor
I enjoy competition. Two of my sons played Taylor football, and I filmed almost all their games. My oldest son, Justin, a two-time NAIA All-American, chose a unique paper topic for his capstone project as a Christian Ministries major: "Biblical Sports." What?! Yup, biblical sports. The claims and interests of God's kingdom transform sports and athletes too.
In last Saturday's game, I saw an example of biblical sports. Taylor running back junior Spencer Crisp got tackled by a Concordia player. Spencer was the first to jump up, extend his hand to the tackler, and help him get back on his feet. That's one aspect of biblical sports. It doesn't have to happen every play.
However, when professor Mick Bates and my son and I went to IWU vs. Taylor football game on Sept. 1st, we were a bit surprised when 15 minutes before gametime the first of three skydivers sailed into the stadium sporting a relatively small IWU Wildcats flag. The "booing" began as the skydiver descended right in front of us. Maybe the fans were just "oohing" and "ahing" at the impressive entry, but it sounded like booing due to the IWU flag.
Then something happened I'd never seen before. I think it took place when the Wildcats squad first entered the stadium from their locker room. Everyone around us turned their backs on the field. Was it just good fun or an insult? I don't know, it didn't feel right in my spirit. Something was off.
The "boos" occurred now and then on and off; I'll never be comfortable with booing. But when Taylor took the lead, I got the feeling we were adding insult to injury, kicking the IWU players when they were down as our fans began to cheer: "This is our house! This is our house!"
I'm pretty sure we were in IWU's stadium, but that's not what the Taylor fans were suggesting. I knew that IWU's president Dr. David Wright was hosting Taylor president P. Lowell Haines and Sherry in his private box, so I couldn't help but wonder if Lowell might have been a bit embarrassed at this response.
What would Jesus do if he were with fans cheering on their favorite team? I think he would be cheering on all the players, hoping both teams play their best, but he wouldn't do anything to demoralize or discourage the other team and their loyal fans. He would never (1) boo the other team; (2) turn his back when the other team entered the stadium; and (3) he would never join in on the cheer "This is our house!" when his team takes the lead. In short, Jesus would not demean or dishonor the other team and their fans in any way.
Paul does say things like "Love is not arrogant or rude" and "Follow me as I follow Christ." Jesus would be an exceptional fan since he loves every athlete on the field, but he would always have in mind that his ultimate goal is to point people to his Father. Instead of rubbing a missed shot, tackle, or mistake in an opponent's face, he would show respect to the opposing team, celebrate his team's victories, and humbly acknowledge a loss with honor.
I'm confident the IWU coaching staff and players invested countless hours and worked just as hard as the TU coaches and players in preparation for this game. I'm sure there are just as many gifted and talented athletes who are followers of Jesus on IWU's team as there are on Taylor's team. And because TU and IWU are Christian universities, we are fellow members of the body of Christ. Even in the midst of our competition, we want the very best for the other.
IWU fans probably cheer in much the same way when they visit Taylor and we're down. Still, in our heart of hearts, I think Jesus' disciples desire to bring the kingdom not only onto the field but into the bleachers too. I trust Taylor will be known for desiring the kingdom in every sphere of life.