“In this Kingdom, there is neither Bear fan nor Panther supporter, Cub fanatic nor Cardinal enthusiast. There is no Country twang verse Heavy Metal, Modern art against Medieval appreciation for you are all one in Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 (RSV)
I think before I continue I need to make something clear. All of my friends in Charlotte understand this, but I need to be sure that everyone does. See just because I live in Charlotte now, just because I left Chicago for ‘greener pastures’ doesn’t mean I despise the city of Chicago. Quite the contrary. Ask anyone around me these days. I have been in fights with people about cities they think are better. (They are wrong). I LOVE Chicago. I think it is the best city in the world.
At this point in time however, it is just best that I am from Chicago, not necessarily that I am in it.
Anyway, I love Chicago. And maybe more importantly, I love Chicago sports teams. There is nothing like being at Wrigley Field to see the most storied franchise in sports take the field (and lose.) Chicago is where Michael and Co. hoisted 6 championships and established the greatest team in NBA history. Though a bit more bandwagon, the United Center was absolutely rocking all spring as the Blackhawks cut ties with their 49 year Stanley Cup drought. And I think SNL speaks loudly enough for the city’s fall team: http://www.google.com/search?q=superfans+snl&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari
Needless to say, Chicago sports are the biggest thing I miss about being in Charlotte (next to amazing family and friends…ok it was a bit of hyperbole. It’s what I do.)
So when DAAAAA BEARS come to town to play the Panthers, you go. You plan weeks in advance and no matter what, you go to the game.
So yesterday I headed down to uptown Charlotte (yes, they call it uptown here. It’s ‘more positive.’ Yeah, I know. Lame.) A couple of my friends met up at one of their apartments not too far from the stadium. One was actually a Bears fan and the other two? Well, they were smart and at least adopted the team for the day.
We headed down to Bank of America and took our seats. And though the Panthers got on the board with a field goal, the lead was quickly erased as the Monsters of the Midway raced out with fourteen points of their own and slowly cruised to a 23-6 win. We all sat and enjoyed the game and I had the chance to make plenty of new enemies as I would stand and raise my arms at every positive Bears play (which were a decent amount) and every Panthers screw up (which were a ton.) I got boos and other suggestive gestures. It was very clear to whom my allegiance was with.
After the game we started walking out of the stadium. I got more boos and laughed and yelled as the Bears were leaving victorious. I saw disgruntled Panthers fans all the way down; angry, mad, disappointed, and even some who were embarrassed. I was able to take this picture with my two favorite Panthers fans of the day.
My friends and I took some more pictures and then started our walk back to my friend’s apartment. The whole way we passed Orange and Blue yelling, waving, and slapping high fives. The number of “BEARS!” chants was ridiculous. And I truly believe I made about 1500 brand new friends yesterday. We had at our deepest level connected over one of the most important facets in life: the Chicago Bears. Ok, that might be a bit over the top. It is actually what amazed me most about going to the game yesterday; and as I thought about any sporting event I’d been to.
Before the game started, I knew absolutely nothing about these people. As a matter of fact, I still really don’t. And yet for 4 hours on a Sunday afternoon we had become family-over a football team! Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast. But that is nuts! All that it took for me to enter in with these people was the fact that we wanted the same team to win. Haven’t you seen this? Sports have an amazing way of bringing people from all sorts of different cultures and walks of life together to celebrate something.
This false identity is almost a drug. For $59.99 you too can buy a jersey and be a part of it all. You can fit in. You can belong.
And it’s not just sports. We see it in art, movies, and music. So much of what we do and what we are passionate about brings us immediate connection with the others around us. They may or may not dress like us, share political or social values, or a number of other potentially more important points and yet it is enough (at least in short) to enjoy a small part of who they are.
I think we serve a God who is longing that his Church look like Bank of American Field. He desires for his children to rush in and high five each other like they do at the Friendly Confines. For us to see that as members of the body, children of the King we are all cheering for the same thing; that we are all running the race together.
Paul writes in Romans that though we are many members, we are one body. We have different gifts, but within the context of the body we are encouraged to use them. It doesn’t matter if you’re athletic, or artistic, or poetic, or rhythmically gifted. He goes on in Galatians to affirm that this isn’t about just difference of gifts. He starts verse 26 with an unreal exhortation: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
See Paul is preaching at a time where identity amongst followers of God was HUGE! There were far more implications for being a familial Jew, a male citizen, or anything else at all. He goes on; “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” Did you get that?! In the cheesiest of ways, we are all wearing Jesus jerseys! We’re all cheering for the same team!
It’s actually better than that! Paul continues, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Not only are we rooting for the same team, we are on the same team. We have been brought into the original family!
And while watching your team win a Super Bowl would be nice, It is far greater to be the one playing; especially on a team that has already been guaranteed victory by Christ’s work on the cross.