15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:15)
One of my favorite Christian athletes is Mike “Pinball” Clemons. Clemons played for the 1987 Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL (predominantly as a punt returner), however his greatest success came as a Toronto Argonaut in the Canadian Football League (CFL). With their larger field, the CFL was a perfect fit for the diminutive yet speedy Clemons. His extraordinary balance allowed him to bounce between defensive players like a pinball inside a pinball machine, earning him the nickname “Pinball”. He won many awards including Most Outstanding Player and 6 Grey Cup Championships (the latter 3 as a coach/administrator). Pinball was an awesome competitor on the field and an incredibly effective coach and administrator.
While there is no doubt that I loved to watch Clemons elude defences and run back kick-offs, my admiration for him came from who he was between and after the plays. His trademark is a huge toothy smile. It is difficult to see him smile and not want to smile back because it is so genuine. Even the crustiest old sports reporters couldn’t resist Clemons’ charisma. Long-time Toronto sports commentator, Bob McCown, was a frequent critic of some Christian ideals, but he had nothing but praise for his “friend” Mike Pinball Clemons. McCown would continually promote Clemons’ humanitarian efforts including his non-profit organization Pinball Clemons Foundation. In an article entitled “The day that Pinball let me into his world”, Toronto sportswriter Curtis Rush wrote: “In a profession where successful coaches are often cold and calculating, where winning is the only thing, the soft-spoken and spiritual Clemons stands in sharp contrast — a warm-hearted, soulful man whose vision extends beyond the goal lines.”
The above should not be the exception for Christians involved in sports, or for that matter any Christians. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. “16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:15-17). Notice that it is “doing good”, that should silence the critics. This is backed up by 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 which says: “11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Again, it is how we live our life that gains the respect of outsiders. Some Christians are very eager to preach the word of God and challenge the world with sin that seems so pervasive today. There is a place for this, but if the life you lead is not consistent with who Jesus is (i.e. the one who is supposed to be living inside of us), there will be little appetite for those around us to listen. In contrast if, like Pinball Clemons, the person of Jesus is bursting out from inside us, people cannot help but to be drawn to us. Remember that when Jesus walked on this earth he was called “a friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19); he associated with those he shouldn’t, like the Samaritan woman (John 4: 1-42) and the tax collector (Luke 19: 1-10). How about you? Are you exuding Christ in your interactions with the world? When the world sees you, are they conflicted as they see the love of Christ in you, yet also someone holding firm to the truths of the Bible? Do you gain the respect of others?