In his book, “UnChristian,” my friend Gabe Lyons documents what our contemporaries think about when they hear the word “Christian.” And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of what comes to mind is negative.
While it’s tempting to blame the negative perceptions on the “media” and such culprits, it’s a temptation we need to resist. For starters, it’s a waste of time. What’s more, Jesus told us that His followers would be the object of unfair and even false accusations.
We can’t always control what people think of us, either for good or for ill. What we can control is the way we live our lives. We can let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.
An example of doing this was the subject of a recent article at Sports Illustrated. As part of the run-up to the announcement of the magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year,” various writers explained why a particular athlete they cover should win the honor.
When it was his turn, Tom Verducci, SI’s senior baseball writer, made the case for Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw’s on-field exploits warranted consideration on their own: He won the National League’s Cy Young Award in 2011 and was the runner-up this past season. At only twenty-four years of age, he’s considered one of the game’s three or four best pitchers and the cornerstone of a Dodgers franchise that recently sold for nearly $2 billion.
But it was Kershaw’s accomplishments off the field that Verducci had in mind. He told the story of Kershaw and a young Zambian girl named Hope. When Kershaw met Hope two years ago, she’d recently lost both her parents to AIDS, a fate that Hope, who is HIV-positive, seemed destined to share.
Well, not if Kershaw and his wife Ellen had anything to say about it. They returned from the trip and decided to build a home for Hope and other children like her. It will open in January and will be named “Hope’s Home.”
And this is not Kershaw’s only charitable activity: His foundation partners with Mercy Street, a ministry in his hometown of Dallas that “provides youth services such as mentoring and sports programs.”
As Verducci put it, Kershaw warrants consideration for “Sportsman of the Year” because, at age 24, he has “ built something lasting and meaningful a world away—in manners both in terms of geography and, considering his line of work, humility.”
Kershaw’s actions are a much-needed reminder of “how very small these games are when measured against true human greatness and the awesome power of faith.”
That last part about the “awesome power of faith” tells Verducci’s readers, and us, what motivates a young man from Dallas to care about people half a world away. If Kershaw is by far the youngest-ever recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, given to baseball’s preeminent humanitarian, it’s because he understands that the “God-given talent” he has been given comes with a “lot of responsibilities.”
Now few of us can realistically ever aspire to throw a baseball like Kershaw does, but all of us can and should aspire to live lives that bear witness to that “awesome power of faith.” If we don’t, then we largely have ourselves to blame for what non-Christians think of when they hear the word “Christian.”
And before I leave you, I’d like to remind you that on my “Two-Minute Warning” video commentary today, which you can watch over at ColsonCenter.org, I continue my series on the hymns of Advent. I’m really grateful that so many of you have been tuning in each week. If you haven’t seen the series, check it out. I share my thoughts on how the hymns of this holy season can help prepare us to celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God this Christmas. That’s the “Two-Minute Warning” at ColsonCenter.org.