With the last two NBA finals series, it’s no secret that a huge rivalry has begun to emerge. Yes, I’m talking about the match-up between the talent-stacked Golden State Warriors as they faced off yet again with Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
Although I’m a high school student from Alabama, I witnessed both fan-bases out in full-force as I had the amazing opportunity to travel across the country to serve the Lord in San Francisco during this year’s finals. As you can imagine, we saw countless proud Warriors fans sporting jerseys everywhere we traveled, and even a few brave Cleveland fans as well. We were near to the heart of the Golden State franchise as we served all around the Bay area, specifically within Marin County.
To give a little background, only 2% of the population of Marin County attends church on Sundays.
While in the Marin County area, we worked alongside multiple different organizations, many of which focused on the evolving problem of homelessness. From preparing and serving food to clearing out invading plants in a public park, our youth group was not only able to provide much needed help, we were also exposed to many different viewpoints through those we came into contact with.
Without a doubt, the most impactful part of this mission trip was simply getting the chance to sit down and fellowship with these men, women, and children. Not all of them were Christians and because of this, conversations were often times challenging to our own faith. They freely asked questions that are often avoided in Sunday School or Bible studies, and were genuinely curious about why we believe what we believe. Topics such as the reliability of the Bible, why believing in Christ was the only true way for salvation, and why our loving God would allow sickness and homelessness in His world caused us to truly analyze and discuss how God fulfilled (and continues to fulfill) His promises in the Bible.
During this time, I saw many of my peers grow closer in their own relationships with the Lord. Their faith became their own – not their parents’. Many had always gone to church because that what you do in the Southern “Bible Belt Culture.”
It was through fellowship with each other and fellowship with the individuals we served that I undoubtedly saw Jesus – it didn’t matter that society may look down upon these people, we were all equals in God’s eyes.
I continue to recall one surreal conversation that took place on an afternoon at a shelter in Oakland. A group of our youth sat down and talked with a homeless man during lunch. Early on, the conversation turned towards the hot topic of sports. Naturally, the NBA finals were brought up, as we were just hours away from the next game in the series. When asked if the man was a Warriors or a Cavs fan, he responded without hesitation: “While I may cheer for the Warriors, I’m a fan of God!”
What an incredible response. He put the controversy between worldly aspirations and Godly pursuits into beautifully simple terms for me. While the entire country seemed completely focused on basketball, this man who had no home, no job, and no family of his own remained focused on a God whom I am so often prone to wander from.
He reminded us that we should always cheer, joyous in celebration, for Jesus’ victory over sin and death – not for a ball going through a hoop.
We so willing to display publically through jerseys and shirts our love for a sports team, yet typically reluctant to display our love for God. May we turn from being “fans” of anyone on this earth – ourselves included – and instead find ourselves looking to our mighty God and praising Him openly, even more than we do our favorite sports teams.