Last week was an anniversary that I had completely forgotten this year. One of my college friends posted a picture of a plaque she received on the 20th anniversary of NAIA National Championship won by our women’s basketball team. She was the point guard, and I was the manager of the team. We had different roles on the team, but we got to experience the same event. It was an exciting year in my life.
We were the Cinderella team that won the title. If you had asked any of us just a couple years before that championship year if we would be in a national title game, we would have thought you were delusional. I joined the team my sophomore year (it was also the coach’s first year as well). We only won five games that year. It was a transitional or building year. The next year we did better. Our coach had recruited well.
We were a much different team with the new recruits. However, it wasn’t really about the quality of the players. We had chemistry and functioned well. There was a unity on the team that was remarkable. By the third year, we were almost unstoppable. We did lose five games that year. I don’t remember too much about the losses except for one we had on the road in New Orleans. It was a Christmas break trip. We faced a scrappy team that played more “street ball” style than “play book” style. We lost by about a dozen points.
The reason I remember this team over the others was because we faced them again in one of the playoff games before the title game. When we faced them the second time, we knew their game plan. Our coach had counter moves to thwart their play. We ended up winning by about 18 points. That last week of our season was completely March Madness!
My friend’s plaque reminded me about that time in the past, but I heard a message about unity that brought to mind something deeper. The message spoke about Jesus bringing unity through His life and death. Before Jesus died on the cross, He recruited a bunch of rugged men who were diverse in their backgrounds. The team He formed had fishermen to tradesmen. There were two though who were extreme in their differences: a Zealot and a Tax Collector. Who in the world could bring unity to this bunch? The Tax Collector (Matthew) would have thrown the others into a tizzy. Matthew was a hated man among the Jews.
Yet, Jesus saw the diversity and called it good (I assume). The disciples each had different gifts and different roles. Judas Iscariot was the treasurer of the group; not Matthew. Judas was trusted with the money, even though he shouldn’t have been since he regularly “helped” himself to the funds. Matthew would have been trusted with nothing since everyone knew Tax Collectors regularly “helped” themselves to the taxes paid by the citizens of the country. But Jesus taught them for three years how to live together and actually love one another (in the end).
In the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him before He called Judas Iscariot. Peter, one of the twelve, had something gnawing in his gut about forgiving someone. He asked Jesus how many times someone should be forgiven. The answer: seventy times seven or don’t keep score! Maybe Peter had problems with Matthew or maybe the “loved one” John. But the team had problems; they were too unified in the beginning. By the time Jesus died, everything changed then. In His teaching, Jesus was adamant about loving one another. He instructed them over and over this is how others will know they were part of Jesus’ team.
Just as my college team was unified for a greater purpose, we as followers of Jesus are to be unified as the Body of Christ. There should be no division in the Body of Christ. We stand on the foundation of Jesus and work together as a Body with one Head – Jesus – who directs us in the mission. We all have different roles but the same purpose – to proclaim the Good News of Jesus! Others will know us by our love for one another – it was a commandment by Jesus!
Without the unification of Jesus, the disciples would not have brought the message beyond the borders of Israel. They would have scattered without getting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But because the disciples were true to Jesus, we are here today proclaiming the same message that was given 2000+ years ago. We don’t get national championship rings with the victory we are given in Christ; we get a crown that lasts for eternity! Now that’s something to remember and really celebrate! Let’s get in the game and finish well for the winning team!
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16