My daughter finished her spring soccer season this past weekend. Soccer is a popular activity for many of the young families in this community of 90,000 people. If you visit a local store or restaurant on any given Saturday throughout the season, you are bound to see a child in a soccer t-shirt. You recognize them by their jersey number in a distinctive font on the back of their shirt. Quite often, one of their parents is wearing a matching shirt distinguished by the word “COACH” above their number.
This last weekend was the tournament. Many families were out and about as they waited between the games of the different rounds. My husband – always friendly and talkative – struck up conversations with some of them. At lunch on Saturday, he asked some people how they did in the first round; he encouraged them as they started round two. On the second day, many families were waiting out a thunderstorm at a local pizza restaurant. My husband asked around to see if anyone had heard yet if the league was going to cancel or postpone the games. He then passed the information along to other families.
As Christians, we don’t have distinctive numbers on our back to let others know we are part of the team. Instead, Jesus left us with some qualities and behaviors that should be evident in our lives. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Our love is the mark of His presence within us; it is the distinctive emblem showing we are part of the team. How we treat others displays how we love them. Our actions toward others are evidence of our faith and membership in the kingdom. (Read James 2:14-26; Matthew 25:34-46; and John 14:8-14.)
Returning to the soccer story, my husband is one of those parents with the word “COACH” on his back. As part of that role, he stands on the side lines of the field and instructs the girls. He tells them when and where they need to be on the field, how to play the game, and cheers them on when they make a goal. This weekend, though, he took the coaching role off the field and out into the world. He encouraged kids whom he recognized as players, even though they weren’t on his team. He passed along information to other families because he knew it would help them.
In our Christian lives, being a “coach” is also evidence of our relationship with Christ. As we grow in our understanding of Him, our responsibility is to teach and encourage others who are spiritually younger. We help them grow in their knowledge of God and know how to live a lifestyle honoring to God. We cheer them on in the process. Like my husband displayed this weekend, this doesn’t just apply for those on our personal team. All believers, the world-wide body of Christ, are all playing the same game. We all need to learn, grow, and be encouraged together as we wait for the return of Christ, “and all the more as we see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).