Monday, April 22, 2013

Jesus, the Bible, and Basketball

The NBA playoffs began this weekend. The top professional basketball teams start to compete for the ultimate crown - the championship. We watch a lot of basketball. The sport is intertwined in our family. My son-in-law is currently the woman's basketball coach at a Christian college in Missouri, and he was an accomplished player himself in college. One of my daughters also played college basketball.

I was thinking........just for fun, can basketball be related to Jesus, or at least the Bible? I know what you're thinking....NO!  But as I'm sitting in my office (the local Panera's), I'm wondering....could there be some parallels there? And my first conclusion....NO!  I mean, I can't visualize Jesus and the disciples playing basketball. Although I guess there's no reason why they couldn't have some occasional fun together - after all they did go fishing together.

After a couple of coffees, and pondering on such a ridiculous scheme, yes, I concluded that there actually could be some similarities (with a little stretching). After all, in basketball, there are players, there are spectators, there are coaches, there are referees, and there's the rulebook. Ahhh...now your getting the picture.

So where does Jesus come in? Here's where....every NBA team has a head coach. He is the overseer, the chief shepherd of the team. He has authority over the team and has the final say. In this parallel of Jesus, the Bible, and Basketball.....Jesus is the Head Coach. He is our "Righteous Judge" (2 Timothy 4:8), our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), and our Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He has all authority (Matthew 28:28), holds the highest place (Philippians 2:9), and in Him, all things hold together (Ephesians 4:16).

A really good NBA coach not only makes good decisions for the team, but loves the game, and loves his players. Jesus loves His church and those that are His. In the same way that any good coach would want to relate to his players, Jesus desires to have a great personal relationship with us.

OK, so everything falls under Jesus. Now what about the Bible? That's easy....the rulebook! In the NBA, there are very specific rules, and they are laid out in great detail, in writing. Without the rulebook, how would the players play? How would the referees officiate? There would be chaos. The NBA rules must be obeyed by the players or there will be turnovers, personal fouls, and even possible ejection from the game. Without the Bible, we would have no guidelines for living, no understanding of how to live the right way, and no way of knowing how to please God and Jesus. (By the way, God the Father is sort of the NBA Commissioner)

We, as Christians, are the players. We need to not only please the coach (Jesus), and be obedient to Him, we need to play this game of life to the best of our ability. We may mess up, even have some personal fouls along the way, but let's keep trying to improve by practicing, by better understanding the rule book, and by listening to the coach. We need to work on our offense (evangelism) and our defense (resisting the opposition).

The NBA referees keep the players in check. When a player does something wrong, the ref points it out. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. When we mess up and sin as a Christian, we know it. And as the refs guide the players and are active and present on the court, the Holy Spirit is present and dwells in us, and convicts us.

There are a lot of great plays in basketball. There is the assist, where a player sets up another player to score. Likewise, let's be an encourager to our Christian brothers and sisters, and be a fellow servant. Another play is the pick and roll, where two players work together blocking and passing, just as we should work together in the Kingdom with the common goal of spreading the Good News and ministering to others. And let's not forget the most dramatic and powerful play in basketball, the slam dunk. (Our baptism).

I can't help but think of the crowd - those cheering for their team. A serious fan of a particular team will wear the team's colors, or the team's name on their clothes. They love their team, they root for their team, they cheer for their team, and they support their team. Likewise with Jesus and His Church, we should be worshipers, and we should boast about our team and our coach. We should be enthusiastic. We should cheer for our team. We should support our team, the local church. We should love our team and try to persuade others to do the same. We should become ambassadors for our team (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Wow - I guess there actually are a lot of parallels after all! And I'm sure you can come up with even more on your own. Yes, Jesus, the Bible, and Basketball - they really do have a lot in common!

One more thought. As you play on the team, try to play as hard as you can, and work on developing your skill to the best of your ability. Study the rulebook. Play your heart out for the team and for the coach, and remember that your main goal is to win the game, and not play for your own glory. During the game, you may stumble and foul (sin). But when you do, get up, try not to repeat your mistakes (repent), and go for the win (Heaven). But by all means, be on guard, and make sure you never, ever, get ejected from the game!!!!


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