If you are a regular reader of my monthly installments to this newsletter, you may know I have been drawn to sports-related topics lately.
In August, I wrote about Chris Archer, who couldn’t wait to get into a Pirates uniform. In September, it was Le’Veon Bell, who may never again put on a Steelers uniform. And with the start of the Penguins season just days away, you might logically guess that this month would have something to do with Sid or Geno. Yes, that would be logical, but it’s also … wrong.
What has captured my attention recently is the 42nd Ryder Cup. In case you don’t know (or care) what the Ryder Cup is, it occurs every two years and pits the best golfers of Europe against the best golfers of the United States. So I thought I’d take a swing at writing about it.
The event is hosted alternately in Europe and in the U.S. This year’s contest is at Le Golf National in Paris, and by the time this blog is posted, the competition should have just concluded. The Americans haven’t won on foreign soil for 25 years, which means they’ve been losing nearly as long as the last time a movie was shown at Spotlight 88!
If you watched any of the coverage, you almost certainly were struck with how seriously the players, coaches and fans take the competition. There are huge crowds, raucous chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!,” fist pumping and more. There is a lot of pride in winning the cup and a lot of intensity, too. Several players will tell you it’s the competition they most look forward to during the year, and some say it’s their highest goal to make the Ryder Cup team. You would think that the pinnacle for any player would be to win a major or the season-long championship.
When asked about what makes the Ryder Cup so special, player after player will give you the same answer — team. Every other week of the year, a player is competing as an individual against every other individual. Yes, they all have caddies who offer assistance and some camaraderie, but it’s still a competition among individuals. However, for one week of the year, they are a team. They play together and root for each other and win or lose as a group. And they LOVE IT! And I love it, too, in part because it is fun to see the way the team comes together, but also because it gives us a little glimpse of how God intends for us to operate in the body of Christ.
Most of us have the orientation of the professional golfer — we go it alone. We might have a few people around us who we interact with on a pretty regular basis, but we rise and fall on our singular merits and talents. Of course, some of that is to be expected since we are individuals. But the scriptures call us to pursue team activities. There are wins that come to us by being with others and sharing life together. Many of us find that challenging because we’re taught we should be able to do it ourselves, but the scriptures tell us there are different principles to live by if we want to thrive.
This truth can be found in many verses, but some that I find particularly compelling are the “one another” passages. You’ve probably heard some of them: “love one another,” “be devoted to one another,” “everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” Oh wait, that last one might be something else, but I needed to see if you were still paying attention.
There are about 100 “one another” verses in the New Testament. Some of those that jump off the page are exhortations to “bear one another’s burdens,” “encourage one another,” “pray for one another,” and “comfort one another.” There is much that could be said about each of these, but here is the central truth: You can’t fulfill any of these if you’re not spending regular time with others. And that’s going to require intentionality.
None of us stumbles into genuine, biblical fellowship and oneness with others. We’re too busy. We’re too individualistic. We need to break that down, which means we’re going to have to live in a way that doesn’t come naturally. We’re going to have to choose engagement.
At Pathway, there are loads of opportunities to engage in “one another” activities. You can find it, in part, through serving in a ministry or being faithful in worship. But the best place of all to find it is through an environment where you can get to know others well and where you can be known. It’s hard to bear one another’s burdens if you’re not close enough to share them. It’s hard to be devoted to someone with whom you’re not spending regular and quality time. The most natural place to invest in relationships is in a small group.
I know many of us have a natural reluctance when it comes to getting close to others, but it’s important to realize that we’re not told to love one another only if we feel like it. This is to be standard operating procedure. That should give us the inclination to get over whatever barriers are otherwise holding us back. Besides, the testimony of most reluctant people, once they give it a try, is that the depth of friendships they have achieved makes it well worth overcoming any initial hesitation.
I’d encourage you to take some steps today to pursue “one another” relationships. Simply expressing your desire to get connected to a small group will make that happen. Just keep in mind that for a believer in Jesus, connection and community with others are not extremes for just a few, they are par for the course.