It was nearly twenty years ago, in 1997, when John Elway led the Denver Broncos to their first Super Bowl victory. That was the year I decided I didn’t want to follow my father’s footsteps and be another Pittsburgh Steelers fan in No-where-sville, Pennsylvania. My nine year old self was proud to have chosen a team I could call my own. Yet nineteen years later, that very fandom left me at a crossroad.
Living in Pennsylvania, no one really cared that I was a Denver fan; they always asked how that happened of course, but no one had strong feelings for or against the team. That mentality was the same when we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina: an overall indifference. That is, until it was clear that the Broncos would be facing the Panthers in the Super Bowl.
I had a choice to make.
Did I want to sink into the shadows and cease mentioning that I was actually rooting for the opposing team? Or did I want to be that one orange fish fighting the current coming my way?
It started as a small rebellion. I would wear a hoodie at work with a Broncos logo. I never mentioned it, few people even noticed it, but it was my own quiet stand. But of course, war was declared when my office decided to make the Friday prior to the game “Panthers Pride Day.”
It was time to fight back.
I showed up that Friday in as much orange as possible, in nothing less than a John Elway jersey.
I was never cocky; I was never rude. I was just being openly, unabashedly me.
The same is true of the Monday that followed, when I yet again went to work in all orange, this time sporting a Demaryius Thomas jersey. No haughtiness, no superiority complex, just excitement and support for my team, while graciously owning our areas of weakness.
In the midst of this battle, God laid a question on my heart:
Why don’t I wear Jesus in my heart the same way that I’ll wear “Denver” across my chest?
Keep It Controversial.
I struggled with this question for days; I knew that I had never been as consistent and vocal about my faith as I should be. I never want to be a person who is constantly preaching at people, which is how so many others inadvertently get turned away from God’s love, but I shouldn’t keep shying away from admitting, in full, who I really am and how God has changed my life.
I finally gained some clarity that weekend as my Pastor preached about the attitudes our church needs to carry into our second decade of ministry. The point that embedded in my heart was that we need to “keep it controversial.” Not in the sense of doing crazy things and going against the grain for our own notice, but because the sheer message of Jesus is so counter-cultural, if we ever find ourselves going the same route as the rest of society, we’ve lost the heart behind His death.
I have wasted so much of my existence struggling with my people-pleaseing, non-confrontational attitude. I like being able to assimilate into nearly any group of people. I like having diverse friend groups with different passions. I like living in a world with little drama. I like not causing a stir and going unnoticed.
And yet, one of my biggest fears is not leaving an impact on the world in the way I feel called to do. This calling is the antithesis of all those things I just listed; it requires me to go against the grain, to cause a stir, to stand out.
The world I have created for myself has no enemies; I’ve made it as comfortable for me as possible. I’ve always like the idea of standing out, but have always let fear of conflict keep me silent. I was bought into the “I just want to be like everyone else” mentality at a young age.
That was when Pastor said, “stop making an impact and you’ll stop making enemies.”
And he’s right. Jesus’s message was so radical that He was killed for it. If He can sacrifice His very life, the bare minimum I can do is to create a little stir which makes an enemy or two. Comfort breeds complacency. If I truly believe what I say I believe, if I trust God and the calling He’s placed in my heart, then it’s about time I ran as far from that comfort zone as possible and started living like Jesus did.
Keep Dressing To Play.
We often talk about putting on the armor of God, and that foundation is vital, but in a battle, both sides wear armor. So what makes our side distinguishable from the opposition? I think there is something we need to add to our shields and swords.
I also have to give a big shoutout to @elevationchurch who, by trying to show their #PanthersPride, maybe didn't realize they were inadvertently supporting my #Broncos? Thanks for your love and support church! 👌🏻😉💕 #BleedOrangeAndBlue #SupportMyBoys #SuperBowl50 #superversary #BroncoNation #wereTHATchurch #elevat10n #ElevationMatthews #LifeInCharlotte
It’s time to add the jersey.
We need to wear God’s love across our chests the same way we would a team name. We need to be more open about who we are instead of lingering in the shadows. We need to stop letting fear of conflict keep us from the calling of compassion. We need to stop letting bleacher-creatures call the plays in our lives; only the coach on the field gets that honor (as Pastor put it, more-or-less).
I’m committing to donning my Jesus jersey. I’m committing to standing out. It’s not going to be an easy journey; it’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m not willing to live a comfortable life any more if that means I’d sacrifice the impact I could make. And when I start making enemies, and I start getting scared that I can’t handle it, that’s when God will step in and use His strength where I am weak. He has before, and He will again.
So hello enemies, let’s do this. I’m ready to take the field and let God call the plays. I’m ready to have half of the crowd cheering and the other half jeering. I’m ready to make mistakes and fumble–because God has a defense coming that’s better than Denver’s.
The only question left is, which team do you choose?