The best sports month of the year is finally upon us! We’ve all waited with great anticipation for March Madness. I only recently learned that some of the games from the 2nd and 3rd rounds are played in Charlotte this year! I love this city. Maybe I’ll volunteer and get a free shirt and hat. Or maybe I’ll buy a ticket to watch the NCAA tournament in person for the first time. Either way, I can’t wait for Selection Sunday to get here.
Can you imagine what it must be like to play in something with so much suspense and hype while representing your school? I used to dream about it when I was a kid. Who am I kidding, I still dream about it! Sadly, the school I would have played for will not be going to the dance (again) this year. Indiana, Oh Indiana. Hoosier fans still wait in hopeful expectation for the program to turn around, which will happen next year. Go Hoosiers.
All this basketball talk makes me think about how much energy, emotion, and enthusiasm we put into being a fan. The CIAA was in town this weekend. They had a ton of fans here. I’ve never seen Uptown so packed. That’s what fans do. They pack it out and then they pack it up. I can’t really imagine what things would look like if we didn’t have fans at sporting events or if no one cared at all about cheering for a specific team. I wonder if we would still play for the “love of the game.” I would still play basketball because I don’t have any fans that watch me play now. But what would professional athletes do? Fans are crucial to their job security.
So what am I trying to say? Well first, I think being a fan is great. If you’re not one of anything, find something to cheer about. Besides being exceedingly fun and enjoyable (especially if your team is winning), it teaches us loyalty, respect, the importance of teamwork, and it builds a sense of unity. Community happens. Fans are good for society.
But, the problem with fanaticism is it’s too easy. I can “like” anything on facebook. I can easily affiliate myself with or be a fan of some cause, person, or idea with the click of my mouse. Simple. It makes a statement to the rest of the world. People see that I’ve liked something like “World Vision,” and I actually begin to feel like I’ve done something significant. But have I?
Being a fan doesn’t cost anything. It’s not bad when we’re talking about sports or cheering on your friends, but when it comes to the things that matter, fanaticism generally doesn’t produce any significant action.
In the beginning of His earthly ministry, large crowds followed Jesus everywhere. They wanted to see him do miracles, or better yet, work a miracle for them. Or they wanted to hear Him teach. I think Jesus was an attractive kind of personality, too. I can’t imagine Him being dull and boring. He did create humor and laughter.
But Jesus wasn’t interested in fans. He was looking for people who were willing to give it all up to follow Him. He was looking for people who would make Him the single most important thing in their lives—over their family, their job, their money, their friends, and most importantly, their own selves. The twelve disciples literally left behind everything to follow Him. He invited them to do so, and they did it. They didn’t always understand Him, but they were going to follow Him everywhere.
Jesus is still inviting people to follow Him, but not on Twitter. He doesn’t need a fan club or a facebook page, and He isn’t interested in His popularity in Hollywood. In our culture of fanaticism, true followers will stick out. They live differently. Their priorities are in different places. They have real commitment expressed through real action. Like James says, faith without deeds is dead. Following that doesn’t cost you anything is being a fan.
Following Jesus is costly. The invitation is freely given, and it is freely received. But no follower of Jesus will ever tell you it didn’t cost him anything. If he does, he’s not a follower. He’s a fan.
So, by all means, cheer for your team during March Madness this month, but let it be a reminder that following Jesus should requires something much more costly than the feelings of defeat you get when your favorite team falters.