(Originally posted on another site earlier this year. I thought I would pull it out for all of us suffering from football withdrawals; to tide us over until September).
Last Sunday over 100 million people, around the world, witnessed an amazing event with an unforgettable ending. Super Bowl 49 took place in beautiful Glendale AZ at University of Phoenix Stadium. NFL fan or not, for one day the entire world is drawn to the spectacle of what is the Super Bowl. The network coverage begins hours before the game in an attempt to maximize the commercial appeal of the event. Eventually, as game time approaches, each team emerges from their locker room, traverses the tunnel and then charges the field like marines storming the beaches of Normandy. Thankfully they are wearing uniforms because that is the only way to tell which of these mammoth humans belongs to each team. This year, one team was wearing red, white and blue – the Patriots. The other was wearing blue, green and white – the Seahawks. Without these colored uniforms the players themselves, the officials and the fans would be quite confused when 22 of the world’s best athletes began running around on the field and colliding at high rates of speed. It would be impossible to tell who was who.
The uniforms make it clear, which players belongs to which team. However, it’s not the uniform itself that makes them Seahawks or Patriots. The players didn’t show up at the field on Sunday wearing their designer suits and Beats headphones undecided about which team they would play for; unresolved in their allegiance; contemplating whether to take orders from Coach Belechek or Coach Carroll. That was settled long before Sunday. Each player was offered a contract, long before the season began, maybe many seasons ago – and they agreed to it. They aren’t playing for the Seahawks simply because they put on the uniform. They put on the uniform because they are Seahawks – that fact was settled before they pulled that jersey over their head on Super Sunday.
In similar way, we aren’t Christians because of the uniform we wear either. It is not our religious activity or charitable deeds that make us a Christian. Like the teams on Sunday, our place on team Jesus was secured first, then putting on the uniform became something that we do because we’re on the team. The apostle Paul actually used that kind of language while writing to the first century church in Colossae. He described the attitudes and actions of a Christian as something we put on – like a team jersey.
Col 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
Paul is by no means downgrading the importance of living lives obedient to God. Contrarily, that is actually His point here. However, what Paul wants to make crystal clear is the motivation for that obedience. To borrow from our football language again, He is ensuring that Christians understand they are part of the team before they try to put on the uniform and walk out onto the field. Notice the order of that sentence in Colossians 3 – before Paul tells the church what to put on (e.g. the good things that should characterize the life of the Christian); He tells us why we should put them on. “Before you put on your jersey that says, compassionate, kind, humble, meek and patient, here’s why you should – not to earn a spot on the team or to prove that you belong there, but because your spot on the team is secure. It was secured by the performance of Another. Your contract has been signed – signed in the blood of Jesus.” That’s what it means to be a chosen one in Col. 3:12. But it doesn’t stop there.
Not only did God choose us in the midst of all our sin and forgive us – the next thing He did was to declare us Holy, because of the perfectly Holy life that Jesus lived in our place. And finally Paul tells us why God did what He did for us. He did it out of love – we are called His ‘beloved’ – the objects of God’s affection. It’s the trifecta of Amazing Grace: Chosen, Holy and Loved.
So when you pull all that together, what Paul is saying is this, “Christians, because you are Chosen by God to be His own; because you are sinners made Holy by the blood of His Son; because you are loved with love with which no earthly relationship can compare; and because all of those are proof that you have a permanent spot on Team Jesus; now put on your team Jersey. Wear it proudly and play the game with everything you’ve got: with compassionate hearts, with kindness, with humility, with meekness, and with patience. Though you’ll never do any of that perfectly, because of the unconditional acceptance that is yours in the gospel, because you have been declared God’s own, you are now free to live everyday as a Christian, like its Super Bowl Sunday.