Who did you cheer for this last Super Bowl? The World Series? Who are you cheering for during March Madness? Probably your local team, as long as they are still in it. After all, they are the Indianapolis Colts, or the Utah Jazz. They’re your team! Or, maybe you’ll go with an underdog, because you want to see them pull off the improbable win. Some will inevitably cheer for whoever plays the Yankees or some other team they hate.
The way a fan ends up behind their team is pretty arbitrary, isn’t it? Having a certain home city doesn’t make a team any more successful or fun to support. If it actually meant anything, if it was more than just for fun, we’d all want to pick our sports teams based on meaningful information like performance and history. Gamblers don’t just bet on whoever’s local or who their dad roots for. They want to win, so they (usually) look at stats and try to pick the team with the best chance of winning.
Matters that are more serious than sports get the same picked-by-default treatment. People are strongly influenced by their environment growing up and most tend to align with their family when it comes to political parties. Most of us lean in the same direction as our parents, or perhaps our friends from our early 20s because it was just so enlightening to leave home. Why? There’s plenty of research on the topic, but it’s generally because we accept the prevailing opinion of our social circle during our formative years. There is more at stake with one’s vote and civic duties than cheering for a sports team, but still, our human tendency is to just go with the flow, with what feels right.
Have you given more thought to your faith? This is the most important choice of all- deciding what you believe is true, what your values are, and how you will live your life as a result. Did it get more research and thought than your sports team choice did? Does it get more passion? It is all too common for people to join Jesus’ team just because they were raised that way, just as an Indianapolis kid raised by his Colts-supporting parents cheers for the Colts too. We see this same behavior and social inertia in Utah. The LDS people we meet are generally LDS because they were raised LDS and never knew anything else. They never seriously thought about making a different choice or about whether the Church was true, because everyone they spent time with was LDS and it was the default to think like them. They went along with the flow. Is it the same for you? Are you a Christian because you believe that Jesus is Lord, or because Jesus was your default option?
I hope you are not on Jesus’ team. I hope you are his adopted child, and have a relationship with him as your savior. Being a Christian is a bigger choice than joining a team, and living a life worthy of the name of Christ is more than showing up to a certain place during the weekly event and looking the part. Don’t be a teammate and don’t be a fan. Be a child of the one true God, and live like it. Examine your beliefs and believe them because you are convinced that they are true. Study your faith rather than using "faith" as a cop-out for spiritual laziness.
If you’re a fan of Jesus instead of his child, you might be like the church of Ephesus described in Revelation 2. You may be doing the external things right, cheering along God and doing the work, but where is your heart?
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
If your relationship with Jesus is personal, close, and meaningful, you’ll find more in common with Psalm 23:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He heads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Utah is full of Mormons, India is full of Hindus, and the Middle East is full of Muslims because it is easy to go with the flow, and because they have not been told who Jesus is. Don’t be like those who follow what they have been told just because it’s the path of least resistance, or those who choose what to believe based on how it makes them feel. Follow Jesus because he is your true Lord and savior, and follow him with the passion and gratitude that flow out of being saved from death. Follow him in the work he’s told us to do, bringing his truth to those who have not heard of him.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Those trapped in Mormonism here in Utah could at least say that they were never told of Him- but you have been told. Get out of the Team Jesus grandstand and follow him. Do the work he set out for you in the way he’s gifted you to, so that when you meet him, you can meet him as more than just a fan.