George A. Bowers Sr.: Whose jersey are you wearing?
Recently the National Football League completed their 2015 draft. The best of the best college athletes were selected through several rounds and were offered millions of dollars to play for the different teams during the upcoming season. Most young men envision playing professional football, but only a very few ever realize this dream. For those who do, they begin to represent their new owner and team from the moment of signing. They start wearing the team’s jerseys and sporting their logos, indicating their identification with their new franchise.
At other times, NFL teams trade players back and forth in exchange for money, draft picks or other considerations. The negotiations are usually worked out through agents behind closed doors. All of the details are hammered out privately between the representatives of the players and the teams.
Once an NFL contract has been settled, however, it then becomes public. The team notifies the media and a press conference is held. The draftee holds up a jersey of his or her new team for all the cameras to record and for all the world to see. In the case of a trade, the individual clearly identifies with his new squad and indicates ties to his former loyalties are severed.
These drafts and trades can remind us of a Christian’s decision to follow Jesus. God’s agent, the Holy Spirit, works in an individual’s soul drawing him or her to God and offering to take all sin in exchange for grace, peace, and eternal life. If the person accepts the offer, he or she receives forgiveness and salvation and immediately becomes a part of God’s team. All of this is done within a person’s heart and is generally very private.
A new Christian then must identify him or herself with Christ, usually through baptism. In a sense, this event is the press conference in which he or she holds up the jersey of Jesus and clearly indicates to whom they now belong. It is an obvious statement that they no longer live for their old team, but now belong to the Savior. In some traditions, this is done at Confirmation or at another public service. These are exciting occasions for Christ and his church when persons announce their decisions to follow the Lord.
If, however, after a Dallas Cowboy was traded to the Washington Redskins, it would be very shocking to see him still wearing a blue and white jersey. If he slapped a Cowboy magnet onto his Mercedes or wore the Dallas star on his hat, I imagine the Redskins’ manager would hastily schedule a meeting with the new recruit to make it abundantly clear which team he now represents. Any old bumper stickers would have to be scraped off to make way for the new team insignia. I’m sure he would be reminded that he is not just a Redskin in the stadium on game day, but that he is to be identified with his team 24-7.
So too, a Christian is not just to wear Jesus’ jersey on Sundays. We are to live out our faith each day of the week. Our commitment to follow Christ means that we now identify with our new savior, coach, and lord. To revert to sinful behavior or to continue in our old ways is to betray our new owner. It ought to be unquestionably obvious that we now belong to Jesus by our words, attitudes, actions, habits, and love.
As NFL teams finalize their rosters for the upcoming season, let each Christian be certain there is no question about which team we belong to. May we clearly identify with Jesus and wear his jersey honorably each and every day. And may those who are not yet Christians agree to the contract Jesus offers and join his winning team today.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.