So far blogging through Kyle Idelman's book Not a Fan, I've drawn spiritual lessons from Tim Tebow, John Wall, and Josh Hamilton. At some point I plan on writing about Jeremy Lin, Rulon Gardner, Billy Beane and others if the opportunity presents itself. It's nice to look at these superstars and draw encouragement and inspiration from their lives or their play on the field/court/mat. But these athletes represent the cream of the crop, the top percent of athletic skill. Let's face it, it is unlikely you or I will ever play in the Super Bowl or run in the Olympics. These athletes are in exclusive company.
Just how exclusive? According to the NCAA only 0.03% of high school boys who play basketball go on to play professionally, 0.02% of women. Football is slightly better with 0.09% of high school players making the pros. If you are living vicariously through your children and dream of them making the big time, your best bet is to steer them towards baseball where 0.5% of high school players go on to play in the pros. (But note that last number does not mean the Major Leagues; baseball has an expansive minor league system where most players never see a pitch above single A).
What is even more exclusive than being the pros is being an All Star. Headlines were made last week noting that Blake Griffin is not in the NBA slam dunk competition and that Jeremy Lin isn't in the three-point shootout. There are omissions to the All Star team every year in every sport that leave fans scratching their heads.
But imagine you or I making the All Star team. How out of place would we be? The college hoops team I root for shot 1-10 the last nine minutes of their game last weekend. They lost the lead against their arch-rivals the first and only time with three minutes left and never recovered. A fan might call that a choke. Now picture that team suiting up for the All Star game, practicing jump shots for the three-pointer competition. Yet even those players are better than most of us watching the game from our Lay-Z-Boy.
Another exclusive crowd were the young men in Jesus' day who were selected to learn under a Rabbi. It was an honor and source of familial pride. A Rabbi didn't pick just anyone. It was the equivalent of being chosen to suit up in the NFL. But that's not how Jesus operated. He hand-picked the rejected. In fact, instead of waiting for others to ask to follow him he went out and asked fishermen, tax collectors and political rebels to follow him. And when he taught to the crowds he was explicit in his invitation "if anyone would follow me..."
Kyle uses the example of Matthew the tax collector in chapter 8 to emphasize Jesus' open invitation. The application for you and me is that we have a better chance of being chosen to follow Jesus than to be a professional athlete. Based on the numbers above, that doesn't say much. But Jesus' invitation to follow him is all-inclusive.
The word sin is used in archery to describe when one misses the target. Me, I've missed the target a lot. I've bricked the wide open jumper, whiffed at the [slow pitch softball] pitch, dropped the pass. I'm not going to make any All Star team. But Jesus invites me to play for him anyway. Let that sink in. Jesus actually wants me to be on his team. Ever been picked last on the playground wondering whether you'll get to play at all? Jesus picks you first. Ever miss the crucial play and hang your head in embarrassment? Jesus just selected you to be an All Star.
Kyle offers the challenge to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus rather than just fans: are we as inclusive as Jesus? Or do we consciously pick our teams based on appearance? Our church, our demographic, our neighborhood, our ministry... how inclusive are you? Don't get me wrong, there is fine print here. Following every invitation from Jesus is the call "you must..." But do we close the door on people's faces before ever getting to that point?
The next time you stumble on the playing field of life remember that Jesus wants you on his team. And that neighbor, coworker, friend that is even a worse player than you? Jesus wants him and her on his team too.
This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.