As many of you have figured out, I’ve developed a love for the game of soccer. What started out as an intentional decision (“OK, I’m going to watch soccer for a year to see what it’s about!”) has grown into a genuine fondness. Sure, basketball, baseball, and football are fine–but little gets me going in the sports world like some good soccer.
In a match Saturday, Hull City played Crystal Palace (both teams are from the English Premiere League, which NBC Sports now televises), Hull scored a goal due to a man left unmarked (uncovered, as Americans would say it)–a case where the defender was, as they say, ‘ball watching.’
We must beware of the danger of spiritual ‘ball watching.’ Yesterday, I preached on Titus 1:10-16 regarding biblical fellowship, which begins with a union with Christ and, as a result, unifies us to our brothers and sisters in Christ. As we connect with Christ and His church, we also protect each other in the gospel, and from others claim to be followers of Christ, but bring a different gospel, a false gospel into the assembly. The elders (the pastors) of the churches cannot just simply ‘ball watch.’ What must they do?
- We must know where our teammates are–that is, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to make sure we encourage them in the training sessions as well as the games, helping them to be in the right spot on the field. As players on the field must never assume their whereabouts on the field, we must never assume that we know what kind of experience and maturity folks in our church have. We must know where they ‘are’ spiritually and help them take the next step.
- We must know where our opponents are–that is, those who stand against the things of Christ. We must not ‘ball watch,’ but engage those in our lives who seek to take our people astray. Titus 1:10-16 speaks of how the elders/pastors should identify those who seek to deceive our people, silence them before they do any more damage, and rebuke them sharply “so they may be sound in the faith” (v. 14). Whether on the sidelines, or even on the field, we must actively engage our opponents and the false message they try to bring in the church.
- We must listen to our coaches and read the Rule Book. There’s nothing that happens during the game, that hasn’t already happened in practice. In our Christian walk, Paul instructs Titus to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). What does this look like? Titus 2 instructs Titus to instruct what “accords with sound doctrine” (2:1). He then goes into what play on the field looks like: what the older men, older women, younger women, younger men, etc., should do. The orthodoxy (right teaching/thinking) leads to orthopraxy (right living). The elders put the churches into order under Christ’s direction (1:5) and teach from the Scriptures how to put lives in order.
No, the analogy is not air-tight, but the point I believe is there: we can’t just be an inactive participant in our Christian walk either personally or as a people.
Let’s get our head in the game.