I have these rules for life. I’m beginning to think that one of my rules is to always start these articles with that phrase. Oh well. This rule challenges us to see beyond the partisanship which divides us. Whether that divide is what team we root for – Go Cubs! What political party we call home. Even our religion or denominational identifications. The rule goes something like this – A true fan will cheer when the other team does something amazing.
Let’s start with sports since that is probably the easiest to grasp. Pick your sport. If the other team pulls off the improbable – like a half-court buzzer beater, a triple play, a risky last-second pass on turn four, a one-handed in the air catch – we may groan but as a fan of the game, we can also cheer. Although maybe not as heartily as the other side. The point is that while we are fans of a team we are also fans of the game. We can recognize and appreciate the play even when it hurts our team.
Now spread that out. At this time politics is highly divisive in the United States. Every news item is like an ink-blot test where each “side” sees what is best for them and worst for the other side. A zero-sum game which for every win there is a loss. The team is now more important than the sport. The political party more important than the people they serve. The political philosophy is more sacred than governing for all. And yes, I do mean all sides and everything in-between. Neither side can or will cheer when the other side offers or does something amazing. Partisanship has replaced ideology and we all lose. This will only change when service becomes more important than the team.
The same thing can apply to religion. From my Christian viewpoint, much is questionable about Islam. But when they feed the poor, help the hurting, grant hospitality to the stranger I can cheer them on. We may disagree and argue over vital fundamental issues but we should be able to encourage each other in service to humanity.
But this rule extends beyond anything that smacks of team. It applies at work, in our family, and in our neighborhood. It invites us to appreciate others and what they do. To respond with encouragement instead of jealousy or disgust when someone in our life does something amazing.
Some may question how this plays in a Christ-centered life. Aren’t we choosing to follow a way that is exclusive? Narrow gates come to mind. Yet Jesus who taught about narrow gates also taught that everyone is our neighbor (see Luke 10:30-37). The Samaritan is decidedly on another team, yet he’s the hero in Jesus’ parable. Being Christ-centered is vital, but it doesn’t mean we ignore, devalue, or treat those who oppose us as enemies – they are our neighbor.
This doesn’t mean we should throw away teams or remove everything that seems competitive or divisive. We cheer our team. We’re excited when they win and sad when they lose. We strive to advance and advocate for our causes. We do declare our beliefs and invite others to join. None of that goes away – nor should it. Having a team and choosing a side is healthy. We are all different with many things to learn from each other. But when our team is more important than its reason for existence there is no room left for anyone else. When life becomes all about us, we are in a very small place.
Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we utterly fail if we can’t see or won’t cheer the good of others. A true fan cheers when the other team makes an amazing play.