Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Smack Talking for Jesus

When I was younger, my friends and I would often spend an afternoon after school playing football.  It was not a formal league, it was just a group of friends having a good time.  We played hard and rough with full-on contact tackle football.  The teams would always be different and sometimes you would be on the winning team and other times you would be on the losing team.  When all was said and done, we would walk to 7-11 and get some Slurpees. There was no anger or animosity, we always helped each other up, and the few times someone did get hurt we made sure that he was ok. Oh how things have changed.  Now, as adults, we do not even play sports but we seem to take them more seriously then ever.  What was once a childhood game has become a cause for insults, assault, and even murder.  Just this preseason, at one game, a man was beaten in a bathroom at a football game and others were shot.  We all know stories or have witnessed people getting ridiculed, beaten, beer poured on them, things thrown at them, and even killed all over a game.  It is utterly sickening to think that adults act like that.  Its worse that oftentimes children are the victims or caught in the crossfire. 

Today I want to talk about where all this starts.  I surely hope no Christian has ever been part of what I just wrote about.  If he was a victim, it is tragic.  If we was part of an assault, he is a vile disgusting excuse for a child of God.  To think that a Christian would judge someone by what team they cheer for instead of being either a brother in the Lord or at the very least a person created in the image of the God he claims to love is inexcusable.  The fact that a Christian would think a game made for our entertainment is more important than spreading the love of Jesus, causes me to have serious concerns as to whether or not he even knows Jesus.  If a Christian fuels his obnoxiousness with alcohol and makes an inappropriate scene, or even worse makes violence, at a sports event has lost his saltiness and is absolutely worthless to God. 

Where all this begins is in what is commonly known as "smack talk."   This is basically putting someone down for their team affiliation or taunting them on a bad performance by their team.  It is a celebration of victory by putting down someone else.  I know we are all guilty of this to some extent.  It would seem as though it is almost impossible to cheer for your team without putting down another.  I realize that this is usually innocent, but for whatever reason, it is very easy to escalate from innocent banter to bitter arguing.  That is why I choose not to partake in smack talk.  I know I fall into it sometimes, and I pray that God convicts me those times I do so that I can back it down.  I know people may say that I take it too seriously or that it is just part of cheering for your team.  I say that the Bible  disagrees.  Here is what the Word says.
[Let] your speech always [be] with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6 NKJV
The key word in this verse is "always."  That is how often our speech needs to be with grace and seasoned with salt.  That leaves very little room for smack talking.  In fact, it leaves no room as smack talk is the antithesis of seasoning your speech with salt. When the Bible says "always," it literally means always.  It does not mean sometimes, most of the time, or even just about all of the time.  It means all the time, all our speech, whenever we speak to another it must be with grace and seasoned with salt.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29 NKJV
The key word in this verse is "no."  How many corrupt words should we let out of our mouth?  Zero.  What percentage of our words should be corrupt?  None.  Again, the Bible does not say to limit the corrupt words that come out of our mouth.  The Bible does not say that we should allow few corrupt words to come out of our mouth.  We are to let no (none, zero, etc) corrupt word proceed out of our mouth.  What we are supposed to speak is  what is "good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearer."  Please, someone explain to me how smack talk can in any way be good for necessary edification (that is to build someone up in Christ) or how it imparts grace to the hearer?  Can an insult be graceful? Can putting someone down because they wore a jersey of a team you do not like lift them up in Christ? 
And whatever you do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  Colossians 3:17 NKJV
The key word in this verse is "all."  I hope that you are beginning to see a trend.  Whatever we do, whether it be in word or in deed, "all" should be done in the name of the Lord.  That means whatever we say, it must be in the name of the Lord.  How do you smack talk in the name of Jesus?  The answer is that you can not.   Once again, this verse does not say that most things we say or even just about all of the things we say should be in the name of the Lord.  No, it says all things.  All means all, plain and simple.  If you can not say it in the name of the Lord, you should not say it.  I do not believe that you can smack talk in the name of the Lord. 

Someone made a comment this past weekend when questioned about smack talking that Jesus does not care about sports.  Part of that is right in that Jesus is not up in Heaven in his Giants jersey, waving a Steelers terrible towel, or watching football with a fake piece of cheese on His head.  Jesus does care very much, though, on how we allow it to overwhelm our lives.  Jesus cares very much when it comes before Him or those He has entrusted us to love and care for.  Jesus cares when we use it to tear each other down.  Jesus cares when we use it as a reason to get ourselves drunk and rude.  Jesus cares very much when we allow something so trivial and ultimately meaningless as sports to affect our witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   When it begins to affect our lives and witness, trust me, Jesus cares very much. 

When it comes to smack talk, it is hard to get around speaking all our words, at all times, with grace and in the name of our Lord.  It makes it even harder to get around when we are told that no corrupt word should proceed from our mouths.   What we need to do is to be a good winner and a good loser.  A winner may rejoice in victory, but it does not have to involve taunting others regarding a worse performance by their team.  We can mourn our losses without an angry attitude of unholy envy.  Take it for what it is, merely entertainment to take our minds off the real world for a while.  It is a means to relax us from the stress of everyday life.  It is nothing more and if it becomes more than it is defeating its whole purpose and something from which you need to step away.  In the end, sports are meaningless.  They have no eternal value.  Sports do not save souls, but our behavior can certainly drive people away from the cross.  If your team wins, rejoice in that victory but do not relish in the other team's loss.  If your team loses, accept that loss graciously and congratulate the fans of the winning team.  If someone smack talks you, respond with grace.  Do not escalate the situation to where it goes from innocent to angry.  And, above all, remember who you are in Christ.  You are the light and salt of the earth, even when cheering for your favorite team and even if they are playing their most bitter rival.  And, finally, remember who those other fans are.  If they are Christian, they are your brothers and sisters in the Lord and that should mean more than anything else.  If they are unsaved, then your behavior is how they will see Christ.  Let the love and grace of Jesus Christ shine through you.  They may never cheer for your team, but they may become your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  That is something we should all be able to cheer for.
For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he [is] a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. [It is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  James 3:2-10 NKJV

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