One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:5-6
It was Gator mania. To say that Aunt Maryjo was a Gator fan is to say that the Pope is Catholic. Through and through, she loved everything that was University of Florida Gators. I am pretty sure if she had a blood transfusion the blood type would have to be UF. I also am certain that if she was bilingual she would speak Southern English and Gator. When she went to heaven about a week ago, the Gator’s lost their number one 94 year old cheerleader.
The family asked me to do a chunk of her memorial service and I was pleased to do so. The service was all about Maryjo, the Gators and Jesus. We stayed at a hotel in Gainesville and something almost immediately caught my eye. Virtually everything, and I do mean everything, was Gatorized. The primary decorating colors were blue and orange and Gator flags, Gator plaques, Gator pictures, and Gator knick knacks filled the main lobby and sitting area. They even had a ping pong table and the net was not a net at all but a solid wall of sorts painted orange with a Gator carved in the middle.
Everyone knows you wear black to funerals and many folks did. But there was also a large number of blue and orange ties, shirts, dresses, and scarves scattered throughout the crowd. I noticed though several members of my family were not wearing blue and orange. I was kinda surprised. So I asked one of my brother-in-laws, “Why aren’t you wearing blue and orange?” About the time I said it, I regretted it. He boldly said, “I ain’t no Gator.” Yup, there were several there who were Florida State fans and aunt or no aunt, they were not going to wear those stinking Gator colors. Life…go figure.
As Judy and I were sitting in the hotel lobby visiting and drinking coffee and observing everything Gator, she said, “Isn’t it amazing what can happen when we are all pulling in the same direction?” And do you know what? She was absolutely right. If I were to guess, probably 99% of the population around Gainesville were avid Gator fans. The lived it, they believed it, and they were ready to fight for it. They might be different social and economic classes, they might be different skin colors, they might even speak a different language, but one thing, one thing, pulled them together. One thing managed to hold them together—they were fans of the Gators. That singular thing overcame everything else. Amazing.
I wonder what would happen if in a different world other than football if the same thing happened. What if all the different denominations that say they believe in Jesus got together and pulled in the same direction? What if all the churches in a town laid aside their insignificant differences and decided that they were going to pull together for the common cause of Jesus? I wonder how our community, or state could and would change, if we all decided to agree on what mattered—the Jesus essentials—and laid the rest aside long enough to live and share the Good News. Why must we be like the football fans who attend rival schools and absolutely refuse to associate? I wonder.
Well, there is one thing I can tell you for certain. There is one who absolutely loves our division over the things that in ten years won’t matter and that is the devil. Oh how he applauds our pettiness and while he is smiling, Jesus is grieving. I know He grieves because the Bible says we are not to grieve Him. If we are not careful, we are going to lose…and I’m not talking about a football game. I am talking about our communities, our cities, our counties and our country. I am not talking about losing a battle, I am talking about the war for the heart and soul of men, women, children—and the places they—we live.
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe somehow our holy huddles and frail fellowships can pull it off individually. But that’s not how the Bible describes how our relationships should be. There is one body and that is body of Christ. I believe it says, “One faith, one Lord, and one baptism.” One…there is real power when all the ones come together for the One and His soul (don’t worry…intentionally spelled that way) purpose. Jesus came to seek and saved that which was lost and it was something that He was willing to die for. What about you? What about us? Can we, will we, don the colors of the cross—red for His blood, white for our forgiveness and blue for our loyalty, not to a pastor, a church, or a denomination, but to the One who matters—Jesus!
Well, I was raised not too far from Gainesville and my daddy and most of my family were Gator fans, but somehow I went rogue—I pull for Notre Dame. Go figure—a Baptist pastor pulling for a Catholic team. What’s up with that? It’s simply really—I love tradition and I love college football and those two override the other. I am hoping our common denominator—Jesus will do the same. I am banking on the fact that we may lose a battle or two, but in the end—Jesus wins and I’m gonna rest in that. After all, He’s got this.