Written by Pastor Eric Everhart
As my youngest daughter entered the 6th grade, opportunities in sports opened up for her. This year she decided to play basketball. She has never played organized sports before, much less basketball, but we are super excited that she wants to participate and be a part of her school activities. For many of the girls her age, this is a year of learning something new, bonding together as a team, and having a lot of fun.
With that said, being a parent who sits in the stands watching 6th and 7th grade basketball games, it can be difficult and even downright painful at times. As parents we want our children to do well, to be the next “Michael Jordan” but the reality is, they are still in the learning process, on both sides of the court. Especially for those of us who have played basketball over the years and know the game, all of the small mistakes and bobbles can drive us crazy.
We find ourselves criticizing every dribble, every shot, and every mistake. We have to control the urge to shout out to the court to correct our children, to coach them from the bleachers. “What are you doing…get back.” “Hands up!” “Shoot the ball!” “Travel, double dribble, come on…that’s a foul!” Our patience is tested, the frustration is at an all time high, and we are now the “bleacher experts” at a middle school basketball game.
It’s hard to overlook the role of the referees at these middle school games. Watching them on the court, I realized that they were “referees of grace.” I took note of the number of “no calls” that the referees made. They understood that these young girls were learning and were going to make mistakes. Their grace was seen in how they would let some traveling go unpenalized, a double dribble ignored, overlooking a foul, or the occasional missed 3 second violation. The patience and grace that the referees showed the upcoming basketball stars made the actions and reactions of the “bleacher experts” embarrassing.
TIME OUT REF:
1. We are all “beginners” in the sense of our faith, none of us has arrived! We are always in learning mode, making mistakes and learning to be more like Christ every day. We have to keep our focus on our calling, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and with the grace of the “referee,” Jesus Christ, knowing that God is at work in our sanctification. “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” Phil. 1:6.
2. We need to stop being judgmental and critical of others. Our pride gets in the way of our calling to be encouraging, to build one another up, to be an example for Christ. We can forget that God is still working in us too–that we haven’t arrived, that God is still growing us into his likeness. Instead, we find ourselves playing the role of the “bleacher experts”…criticizing, judging, and holding ourselves higher than we ought. We need to be more like those referees, more like Christ, showing grace and love. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” Eph. 4:29.
3. We need the “referee of grace,” Jesus Christ, every single day. Are you more worthy than another? He is the one that overlooked our shortcomings, he is the one who ignores our transgressions, he is the one who paid the penalty for our violations. He did this out of his unconditional love for each of us, through his sacrifice he has given us his grace! He knows we will double-dribble, we will travel, and we will commit fouls…but he also knows that we are a work in progress. Let us be imitators of his grace which flows from our deep gratitude for the life he has given us! Instead of being “bleacher experts,” let us humble ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Jesus every day! “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” Eph. 2:8.
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