When I was growing up I used to practice hitting in my back yard. Our yard was relatively small for hitting real baseballs so I set up a tee and then taped a rope to a baseball and knotted the rope to the tee so I could practice hitting the ball straight. Our house was to my left and a creek was to my right. Miss too much either way and I had trouble.
My dad was an excellent hitter in high school and in his fastpitch softball career. He taught me several things about hitting but most of the time I didn’t consider my dad an authority on baseball compared to those I idolized growing up. One of those MLB players I mimicked growing up was Don Mattingly. I read books and articles on his thoughts about hitting. I drew a picture of him hitting and gave it to the birddog scout that got MLB scouts to look at me in college. I even have a picture of Don and I at his restaurant when I turned 16. Suffice it to say, Donnie Baseball had a special influence on me as a baseball player.
Now, if Don Mattingly, my dad and I were sitting at a table in his restaurant discussing hitting, whose opinion do you think I would favor? …Of course, Don’s! I regarded Don as an authority on the topic. Why wouldn’t I? Mattingly played MLB for years with the Yankees and was always expected to pursue batting titles. He even hit a home run off of Nolan Ryan in his MLB leading eight consecutive games with a home run (Don hit 10HR during that stretch). Sorry dad!
My point for this article is this: it’s not that my dad didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to hitting a baseball; it’s that I didn’t perceive his input as authoritative, insightful, or as helpful as Mattingly’s. When you and I listen to people about the kingdom of God it’s natural to favor the input of those we deem authoritative.
Allow me to illustrate further. Today, there’s a knock at the door, and it’s someone passing out invitations to a religious event. I offer a business card as a reference to this site (TheAzureBlue.net) and they redirect the conversation toward their upcoming event. The impression made upon me was that those knocking had an objective to promote their own event rather than develop a conversation. I happen to think I know a little about the Bible so I suggested that this was tactically unwise, that this knocking at the door to offer invitations and avoid engaging individuals that might answer and have input, makes them appear exclusive and is counterproductive for them. The response I got was this “Well, what if Jesus knocked at your door? Would you just ignore the invitation to follow?” I replied “You aren’t Jesus.”
The exchange went on for a few more minutes while my eggs fried too much in the skillet. The conclusion was that I invited someone to revisit and study, and potentially have a fruitful discussion about the kingdom of God. The perception remains, though, that those knocking my door assumed that I should respect their stances on Biblical teachings because they were out inviting people to investigate their worldview. How has this proven productive? I’m not offended by their straightforward approach. In fact, it’s refreshing to have someone openly tell you what they think about Jesus. However, the issue becomes that it’s only what THEY think about Jesus, and you have no room to disagree…or have a discussion.
In our social media era people seem as if they’re desperate to be heard. They will also listen to those they feel have authoritative input.
When Jesus began His ministry people were seeing and hearing things that established Him as credible and authoritative. At Jesus’ baptism we read of the Spirit descending as a dove and the voice from heaven. We read of Jesus testing in the wilderness. We see Jesus heal. We see Jesus teach uniquely. We see Jesus control demonic activity. And, we see multitudes gathering to hear Him describe the expected kingdom of God. If you and I were sitting at a table listening to the teachings of Jesus and also the ones who knocked at my door today, whose teachings do you think I’d favor? Hmmmm.
Should I learn something from this interaction today? Perhaps I might learn this: my own opinions or teachings matter very little to most people and can be easily ignored by people who may need them most. It’s not because I’m incorrect, don’t have insight or wisdom to share, or that I’m straightforward. Many times, it’s because they don’t perceive me to have credibility or authority in their minds. I’m not Jesus….and they know it.
My dad knew he was wiser than me when it came to hitting and that I couldn’t recognize that, because I was enamored with MLB players like Don Mattingly. It was dad (and mom) who planned the birthday surprise of going to Mattingly’s restaurant. I had and still have pretty amazing parents. However, my dad wasn’t jealous of my adoration of Don Mattingly as a hitter. He liked him, too. He wanted to hear what he had to say also. …I hope that my approach with my son is similar when it comes to the kingdom of God. There’s certainly a risk that he’ll get the impression that I think I’m authoritative when it comes to his faith if my tactic is only to get him to agree with me, but there’s a greater risk if he doesn’t see me trying to listen to the Jesus of the Bible. I’ll also need to be listening to those who do have credibility with their research and practice, and also be listening to him to know his heart.
If the exchange at the front door today was less one sided I’d have been happier to lose those fried eggs. I wanted to be heard! Even though they heard me say I was a minister it didn’t give them pause. People know we’re not Jesus either. Many don’t see us as superstars of the world or in the kingdom of God. How can we continue to find ways to become respectful and credible in the hearts and minds of others? The kingdom of God and the Jesus of the Bible should look better and better when we do.
What do you think?