Friday, July 24, 2009

offense and defense

As someone who enjoys sports, has played basketball, and lived in Chicago, I do keep an eye on those Chicago Bulls. This week the Chicago Tribune carried an interview with the chairman of the Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf, in which he states the following:

"I absolutely believe that in every sport that I'm familiar with, defense is more important than offense. Even in tennis, just hit the ball back and the other person will eventually make a mistake ... Clearly in the Super Bowl the defensive teams win. In baseball it's pitching and defense. I'm absolutely convinced that defense is more important and that we need to become a better defensive team than we were..."

I'm not sure how agreeing with Jerry Reinsdorf impacts my prospects for heaven, but I do agree with him. If I was a betting man it would be easy. In those big, ultimate games just go for the team with the better defense and you'll come out ahead over time. But, if it is OK with you, I think I'll end my career as a tipster right there and turn to more sanctified reflections.

'Thinking Christianly' is part of what it means to be an in-Christ, following-Jesus person. And I reckon Peter makes a case for having a Christian mind that can play both offense and defense. [NB - This is some distance from Os Guiness' observation that Christians can seem to be about "having buns of steel, brains of silly putty."]

In the very first imperative in 1 Peter he makes a case for an offensive mind. "Prepare your minds for action (1:13)" - or, as the KJV picturesquely states it, "gird up the loins of your mind". There is initiative here. There is action.

And may I go on to suggest that the double connotation of 'offensive' is appropriate? Yes, taking the initiative and prepared to go on the attack (graciously) is true - but so also is carrying a bit of a stench and being prepared to cause some resentment and division. In today's world, a Christian who never, ever is accused of being intolerant (graciously) must ask themselves questions about whether their understanding of Christ - and committment to him - is as complete as it needs to be.

Later in 1 Peter he makes a case for a defensive mind. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (3:15)." This is something different. This is reactive. In cricket parlance, here we are on the back foot, rather than the front foot.

And may I go on to suggest that the double connotation of 'defensive' is appropriate? Yes, falling back in order to protect, prepared to preserve and to guard valiantly is true - but so also are those times when we refuse to admit we are wrong (graciously) and are unwilling to give-in (graciously). Afterall the calling is to bear witness, before it is to win (although, if the offense is good, this will happen). As a chap called John Stott expresses it, 'we need not be afraid of the truth, nor for the truth - but just be committed to the truth.'

And what is the question that is begging? Is Jerry Reinsdorf's observation true about the Christian life? When push comes to shove, is defense more important than offense?

nice chatting

Paul

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