When U.S. sports officials gather to watch America’s best hockey players try out for the 1980 Olympic team in the movie Miracle, there’s something they don’t know. Coach Herb Brooks has already made his list.
When Herb’s assistant coach sees the list, he says, “You’re missing some of the best players.”
“I’m not looking for the best players,” replies Herb, “I’m looking for the right ones.”
Herb has chosen his players not based on who is best, but on who will be suitable for certain needs, who will work well together, and who will match up well against opponents.
Miracle is my favorite sports movie of all time. When I saw it, I realized how true Herb’s words are—and not just in sports. They carry real truth for us as disciples of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus picked the 12 disciples, he didn’t pick the elite of society. He picked the uneducated, the unprivileged, the outcasts—a strange mix. But each of these men had their strengths, their gifts, their passions and their places in God’s big plan. God has created every one of us with our own gifts, strengths, and passions to fulfill our roles in his “team”—not the “best” talents, necessarily, but the right ones. In comparing the church to Christ’s body, Paul says this about serving on God’s team: “A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. That’s how it is with us” (Romans 12: 4-5, CEV).
It seems to me that sports stories often have a lot in common with life as a Christian. After all, many of the struggles, goals and principles of living life as an athlete are pretty comparable to being a believer. Even New Testament writer Paul saw the connection between Christian life and sports. In his letters, he used the major sport of his day—racing—as an analogy to explain faith six different times.
Nowadays, we have several more sports than just foot racing. (Hockey wasn’t so big in ancient Israel.) So, there are even more comparisons we can make between biblical principles and classic sports stories. Here are five I’ve noticed.
In Gridiron Gang, Sean Porter, a counselor for juvenile delinquents, draws upon his love of football to find a way to bring together a rough group of rival gang members. “Whatever gang you claim,” Sean tells the players, “whatever ‘hood you’re from, this is your ‘hood now.”
Gang members Willie and Calvin show it’s not that simple. Willie is an “88” and Calvin is a “95”—two L.A. gangs locked in a violent territorial war. But gradually, Calvin and Willie gain respect for each other. Eventually, they and their fellow teammates come together not just as a team, but a family.
Just because believers in Christ claim the same Lord, they don’t always see eye-to-eye. We may each be part of one body like Romans 12 says, but that doesn’t mean everything automatically works well. We each have our own unique personalities, prejudices, goals and desires—and often can have big differences. Jesus’ closest friends, his disciples, often let big egos divide them. In Mark 9, Jesus caught his disciples arguing about which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else” (NIV).