It was a Friday night non-league boy’s basketball match-up between the visiting 2A Christian school and a 3A level private boarding school. The C-Team game was a blow-out in the visitor’s favor while the home team earned three technical fouls for dirty play. But that was only the beginning.
While the Junior-Varsity warmed up, members of their Varsity team (including an incredibly talented duo being recruited by Division I colleges) gathered in intimidating fashion underneath our basket. After multiple snide and derrogatory comments, one player leaned in and said, “You know there’s no God, right?” We went on to win the JV game and they added a few more technical fouls to the tally as frustrations grew.
Then came the grand finale between the two Varsity squads. We jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Yet throughout the contest, sportsmanship was optional. Unruly fans even left the bleachers in favor of the elevated track surrounding the gym so they could yell down at our cheering section. After the clock counted down the final seconds, the two teams lined up for the reluctant exchanging of high-fives or knuckle-bumps. Then our team circled at mid-court for the traditional post-game prayer … while their team spurned participation and rushed from the gym. One player even yelled loudly for us to go back to church.
My first reaction? Shock, then anger. And a mother bear desire to protect my cub … from the persecution that Jesus promised would come to those who followed Him. Just like the story I’d heard on the radio that morning about an American pastor in Iran who’d been sentenced to 8 years in prison. They didn’t hate us. They hated God and we were the convenient target.
Then, my heart broke at the realization of how lost and hopeless these young men were. Their parents were paying enormous amounts of money for them to receive a quality education, but they were being taught to believe a lie.
If you’re like me, all the clever things to say come to mind long after the opportunity has passed. So, I got to thinking about what I would say to these boys if had the chance. “You say there’s no God? Well, I can introduce you.” Or “you may not believe in God, but He believes in you … enough to die on a cross in your place.”
By the time my emotional roller-coaster came to a stop, I was reminded again of why I write. You may not like me or what I have to say, but I’m determined to speak truth and offer hope.
What about you? Have you ever been made fun of because of your beliefs? How did you react? What would you have said to these young men?