by John Campbell
I remember my first game experience in the National Football League. My children say it was during the Old Testament period, but I remember it as though it happened yesterday. I was a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings, and we were in Chicago playing the Chicago Bears. As we were standing in the tunnel waiting to go out onto the field, the Chicago fans took the liberty to express their feelings toward us. To say there was a bit of disrespect involved would be an understatement. I don’t know how long we stood there but it seemed like hours, just standing there listening to the fans vent their feelings. Suddenly, one of them yelled, “You guys look like a bunch of Easter eggs!” After a short pause, someone on our team said, “You know, we do look like Easter eggs!” The purple, light gold and white did give us a unique look.
We must have performed like a bunch of Easter eggs because we lost the game, and I remember some of the veterans informing me, “That’s the way it is when you’re on the road. Nobody likes you and you’re always outnumbered.” It did not seem to matter what city we were in, the reception and the challenge always seemed the same. It was not long before I, too, was accepting the belief that it is indeed “tough to win on the road.” When they talk about home field advantage, it is a real factor. In sports, the winning advantage for home teams over visiting teams is substantial.
What brought this to mind was a seminar I attended in Cleveland, Tennessee, that dealt with issues facing the church having to do with the law, the court system and liability issues. The first presentation dealt with children who have been exploited and abused. This was like an ice cold shower for many of us. The next session also dealt with children, but looked at them not as the victims, but as the perpetrators of crimes—young people committing violent acts thought only done by hardened adults. This session did nothing to calm the shocking information presented in the preceding presentation.
In our hearts we all want to do what God has challenged us to do, but in our minds, we have relegated the criminal-type issues to that other “criminal-type” world. Our mindset is one of a Christian “no-fly zone” when it come to dealing with these types of matters. In short, if it’s in the court it’s out of the church. Because we are not comfortable in that setting, we choose not to get involved. To put it in sports language, it’s like playing on the road and we all know, it’s “tough to win on the road.”
That night, in my motel room, I tuned in to view that “other” world on the 6 o’clock news. The first five stories dealt with the same type issues we had been introduced to earlier that day. The only difference was that this night, the newscaster presented the proof of what the seminar speakers referred to. I concluded, if we wanted to get involved, we may have to leave the air-conditioned atmosphere of mutual respect, concern, and desire for a resolution to the problem (which is the usual home-field setting for Christian conflict), and go out “on the road” where we may not feel as confident.
The disciples went out on the road and came back with wonderful reports. Jesus had told them that they would be going out with His power and that was the reason for their success. Will He not do the same for us? The Bible tells us of the ultimate road trip, in Philippians 2: 6-8 “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (NIV).
From the throne in heaven to a stable in Bethlehem. You can’t get any further away from home than that! For 33 years, the Creator became the created, culminating with His standing in front of a large crowd and hearing that crowd yell “Release Barabbas to us. We have no king but Caesar.” and “Let his blood be on us and our children!”
Hearing these accusations coming from the voices He had created, pierced Him every bit as much as the crown of thorns, nails, and spear. Three days later, the empty grave told us all we needed to know. Because He came down and won “on the road” we now can do the same. The challenge was given, power is available, now the choice is ours.