What age group are you?
The object of the game is to score by maneuvering the ball into the opposing goal; only the goalkeepers may use their hands or arms to propel the ball in general play. The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins. While sitting on the sidelines watching my boys run up and down the field, with the sole goal of scoring the most goals, I realized how much the game of soccer is similar to being a Christian (hey I am a Mom of boys this is where I get my spiritual inspirations).
When my boys began playing soccer they were in the 4 and 5 age group. Parents would crowd around the outside perimeter cheering their kid on, too excited to sit. You hear things like, “just kick the ball; don’t worry if you are running the wrong way; you are doing a great job; look at my child isn’t she/he the best!” The kids love the attention from the parents and love to have one chance to make contact with the ball. As Christians we are the same when a person is a new Christian, we cheer them on and they hear phrases like, “Jesus loves you; you are doing a great job learning about God; don’t beat yourself up we all make mistakes.” The new Christian walks away encouraged and uplifted.
A few years later my sons entered into the 8 & 9 year olds age group in soccer. Here the parents have their lawn chairs; they have been here and done that for the last several years. There is still much cheering, for parents know they are still working on coordination, but by now they should have the rules of the game down. You hear comments like, “Oh I can’t believe he/she just did that! Come on you know better than that; Beat that team!” There is laughing while making these comments, because there is still a good time to be had by all, but the kids know by now they are being laughed at. The same is true of believers towards each other, when they know a person has been a Christians for awhile. Comment like these may be heard: “They should have known better than that; what were they thinking? Don’t worry God will forgive you once again.” Sometimes an attitude of “Look at me I have all the right tools and I attend church more” is displayed by the one who has not tripped up. The seasoned Christian who did fall does not feel as encouraged or supported, and is left a little bewildered. Where is the support when I stumble and fall?
Then we enter the 12-14 age group in soccer. For parents this becomes serious stuff, competition is tuff, and they are out for blood. You may hear things like, “Knock that person down! You are better than him, come on. I cannot believe you just missed that goal.” As a parent you feel the pressure; it is no longer cute seeing them run up and down, you are there so your child can kick some serious soccer booty (am I allowed to say that here?) Sometimes as Christians we can lose sight that we treat seasoned Christians the same way. We have such high expectations.
What happens when we see a Christian to whom we have admired and looked up to, fall into sin. We can come back with comments like, “they knew better; what were they thinking? How in the world did they think they could get away with that? I would have never done that! Here I thought of them as a role model, now what!” In reality what these Christians need are the parents of the 4 & 5 year olds cheering them on, encouraging them.
When you see a Christian fall, what is your first reaction? Is it love, or is it a thought of “what were they thinking?” Christ has nothing but love for people who had fallen into sin. In fact, I believe Christ’s heart is tendered towards the one who has fallen into sin.
I John 2:1 states, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
So as a fellow Christian, if we see another stumble or fall we should be there telling them, not to despair. Jesus is righteous and he makes a case for you in heaven, not on the basis of your perfection (or because you should have known better) but because of his death and resurrection.
Despite the fact my oldest son is now in the 12 to 14 age group in soccer, I think I will still cheer him on just like I did when he was 5 years old. Something tells me life is hard enough; having a screaming Mom encouraging him no matter the outcome of the game, will have more of an impact in the long run. Just like encouraging fellow Christians, especially if you see them stumble, will have a bigger impact on their Christian walk.