Orange and black, or crimson and cream? Cowboys or Sooners?
On Dec. 3, the answers to these questions will erupt to the surface in a volcanic way, with the Big 12 football match up of the year. Of course, I am talking about when Bedlam, one of the greatest rivalries in college football, comes to Norman. Stark divisions will arise in our state, communities, neighborhoods—and in some cases, houses—on that Saturday. Yet wouldn’t it be great if the unity that comes on the following day would surpass any divisions?
What if on Sunday, Christians throughout Oklahoma came together in a unity that was even more noticeable than school colors or cheers? The results not only would be God-honoring, but also could change for the better our whole society and nation. Now, I am a huge sports fan and have my own bias in the Bedlam debate (that I will not reveal here). Also, I think it is not only fitting but also acceptable for fans to cheer on their teams passionately.
Sure, it can be easy to get carried away and place more time and emphasis on sports than ministry. But, I am not calling for us to set those team allegiances aside. Instead, I am taking this as a moment to remind everyone—including myself— that there is a more important allegiance we share. Using an acronym B.E.D.L.A.M., I would like to offer some examples of things that unite Christians far more than they divide us.
Bible—Baptists are said to be “a people of the Book.” We stand alone on the Word of God, as the children’s song says. The Bible is the best-selling book of all time. It is our inspiration and guide for all of life. It is the Sword of the Spirit, which enables us to do ministry. It is the healing balm which nourishes our souls in days of troubles. It contains the words of life, without which we all would be lost. More than any other document, the Bible unites the people of God. What a playbook is to a sports team, the Bible is—and so much more—to us.
Evangelism—“The good news is our team is the top in our conference,” you might hear someone say. The phrase “good news” is often thrown about in a casual way. As Christians, though, we were given the ultimate Good News in the Gospel. The best part about it is that our gain can be enjoyed by others. In the world of sports, someone’s good news is another’s bad news. For every winner there is a loser. In Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, He has provided atonement for any who will accept this free gift.
Doctrine—The saying goes, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things charity.” While there are countless secondary doctrinal issues and questions that divide us, essential Christian doctrine brings us together. We believe in the Trinity. We believe in salvation by grace, through faith in Christ. We believe in the forgiveness of sin. We believe in Heaven (and hell), and the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. In these time-honored, main and plain doctrines, Christians find solid ground on which to stand together.
Lordship—It is always a sore sight to see a team without a coach. How much more terrible if the people of God did not have a leader—The Leader. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of the flock. In the coming weeks, the Baptist Messenger will be presenting a series to focus us on Christ this Christmas. Truly, He is the ultimate uniter. He is the only One who will never let us down. There will be no scandal or disappointment in Christ. In His Lordship, we rest.
Afterlife— Death has a way of bringing about unity or division. Oklahomans have faced some of the most terrible tragedies— even recently—and the hardship has been not wasted. In times of the greatest tragedies, people remember the more important things of life. As Christians, we believe this life is not all there is. In His masterpiece, The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis put it like this: “At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”
Membership—One of the appeals of being a fan of a team is a sense of belonging. Fans talk about “their” team. “I can’t believe we missed that field goal,” you will hear people say, as if they are part of the team. One of the beauties of the Christian faith, though, is that in Christ, we truly do belong. The Apostle Paul talks about this in his first letter to the Corinthians. “For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12) What a remarkable, meaningful truth. Whether or not a sports program or franchise will long endure, we do not know. But we do know the Body of Christ is eternal.
These, of course, are just a few examples of what unite Christians. Above all, it is Jesus Himself—our Savior and Redeemer—Who brings us together, not only on Sundays, but also every day. Those of us in Christ, after all, are all on the same divine team.