RED JERSEY: A LESSON IN SELFLESSNESS
By DANNY MINTON
In a high school football game a few years ago, the Brandon Bulldogs of Brandon, Mississippi, met the Northwest Rankin Cougars on the field for a junior varsity football matchup. The game started out like any other high school competition but took an unexpected turn as the game progressed.
Brandon quickly went up by a score of 21-0 in the first half. It was during the first half that the Cougars quarterback was injured and had to leave the game. The Cougars had only the one quarterback and tried several different team members at the position with failed results.
So what do you do in the second half? The solution came not from the Cougar’s coach, but from the coach of the Bulldogs. Brandon was fortunate enough to have two quarterbacks so Brandon Coach Peterson approached one of his quarterbacks, Mason Mathieu, and asked him if he would be willing to play quarterback for the opposition.
It was an unheard of request, especially since the quarterback he asked was his starting quarterback, the one who had led the team to a 21-0 halftime lead. The Brandon quarterback agreed. The Cougar’s coach agreed, but only if he played well, otherwise he’d send him back.
It was a strange sight, Brandon in red jerseys and Northwest Rankin in black, except for one red jersey leading the team. Brandon won the game by 32 points, but not before Mason led the team to a couple of touchdowns and was heading for another when time ran out. The final score on the board was Bulldogs 46, Northwest Rankin 14. Off the field, two rivals had now become friends who will be cheering for each other along the way.
The Cougars called off the next game or two due to injuries. The missed games would soon be forgotten, but the game that Monday, the one that took place on a small high school field in Mississippi, the one with the quarterback in the red jersey, will go down in the history of the two schools and be remembered for years to come.
Churches, both of yesteryear and today, battle a demon that lives within each and every congregation. It’s not a demon that takes over the body like the demons of the New Testament. It’s not a demon like we see in the movies that distort and changes our voice to some evil sounding gurgle in the dark. It’s really a more subtle demon. It’s one that works its way into a congregation, quietly making its way through members and leadership. It lives, sometimes in all of us, and will pop its head up whenever it gets poked and prodded by our inner self.
It’s the demon of self-desire. It pops up when an individual whether a member or leader let’s what he or she wants to get in the way with what is best for the body. Everyone has their likes and dislikes. Everyone harbors within themselves their personal opinions and desires. Everyone has in their mind the way that “they” feel things should be done, directions that should be taken or actions that should occur.
Have you ever thought about how many times Jesus talked about putting the needs of others ahead of ourselves? He tells us to “treat others like you would treat yourself.” He explains in the Good Samaritan Story about what a true neighbor is all about. He exhorts us to give more to someone than what they ask. If someone is thirsty give them a drink. “Freely you have received, freely give!”
In this story not only did the coach give the other team a quarterback, but he also gave them its the first-team quarterback. When the minds of people are on the giving aspect of Christianity, it helps us to truly grow both inwardly and as a congregation. When the whole body is bound with Jesus and is looking after each other with the best it has, it forms a strong, unbreakable bond. Differences can then exist, but not as self-desire, but as an open conversation taking to heart the needs and wants of others while seeking the good for the whole.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.–Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ