The South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Clemson Tigers convincingly on Saturday, November 26, 2011. That makes 3 years in a row that the Tigers have fallen to the Cocks.
In the Furtick family, we pull for Clemson. My mom graduated from Clemson, so it’s all I’ve ever known. My boys did their best to cheer the Tigers to victory Saturday night. We were all pretty disappointed with the outcome.
Why am I telling you this?
For sympathy, a little bit.
But mainly to share an anecdote with you. Stay with me.
See, where I grew up, in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, there was almost nothing bigger than the Clemson/South Carolina in-state rivalry game. Not Christmas, not your kid’s graduation, not a personal appointment with Jesus for the rapture. I’m exaggerating only slightly.
And throughout my childhood, I just assumed that the football game that was the center of my universe must be the center of everyone else’s too. If I had met another little boy from China, I would have asked him whether he was a Clemson fan or a Carolina fan. Those two categories seemed as universal to me as dead or alive.
It probably wasn’t until my first year of college that I fully realized how little most of the world cared about Clemson or Carolina. Football fans in other parts of the country were consumed with their own rivalries. Worse yet, most of the world’s population didn’t care about American football at all. In fact, they didn’t even consider it real football. They reserved that name, understandably, for another sport.
It was a revelation for me:
All my life, I’ve been obsessed with something that most people couldn’t care less about.
As far as football goes, this is all pretty harmless. Team loyalties give us bragging rights, and something to talk about, at least in our own little corner of the world.
But, I think there’s a deeper analogy here about some of the dumb stuff that divides so many churches, ministries, and believers in Jesus.
I wonder how many “rivalries” we’ve set up within Christian culture that make us look completely aloof and disconnected to a watching world?
We’re busy drawing battle lines within our bubble:
“Are you Calvinist or Arminian?”
“Are you missional or attractional?”
“Are you a Cessationist or a Continuationist?”
“Are you seeker sensitive or (insert opposite of seeker sensitive)”
“Are you blah blah blah or yada yada yada?”
Meanwhile, most hurting people in the world have no idea what we’re talking about. (A lot of the time, neither do we, if you press us.)
What’s worse, they don’t care.
If the average non-Christian heard some of the debates that dominate many of our “Christian” conversations, they’d be sickly amused, completely confused, totally disgusted, or all of the above.
Bad things happen when we become obsessed with things that most people couldn’t care less about—and become distracted by passions that aren’t the highest priority in the heart of God.
We look like idiots when we launch full-scale wars over battles that Jesus didn’t die to fight. Most tragically, it keeps us from coming together, and really putting the devil on the run in our generation.
Of course, we’ve got to draw lines sometimes. Otherwise we fall off the “all paths lead to God” cliff, placing the terrorists on United Flight 175 on the same grounds of “sincerity” as Saint Peter.
And there’s certainly a place for theological distinction. For crying out loud, I’m part of a Protestant church.
But don’t you think that, too often, our in-church rivalries with other believers and ministries make us look like people with really small worlds?
God help us when we can’t respect one another’s different positions enough to realize:
Hey, we’re wearing the same jersey…