22Mar

The Gospel According to March Madness

It’s arguably the most interesting event in sports. It draws the attention of the casual observer, the diehard fanatic, and that one person who fills out their bracket based on uniform color…and beats you every year.

March Madness.

The brackets. The upsets (Baylor…). The Cinderella stories. The heart-breaking losses (ahem, BAYLOR!)

Maybe it’s because I used to own too many Chicken Soup for the Soul books, or maybe it’s because I’m a preacher and I know the power of a good story, but I love the storylines that come out of March Madness, the ones that transcend basketball.

These powerful stories of comebacks, reunions, and destiny take more than X’s and O’s to tell but they might be my favorite part of the tournament.

The relationship between Georgia State (there’s a Georgia State?) head coach Ron Hunter and his son, R.J. was easily the most powerful of these type of stories, at least in the first few rounds of the tourney. R.J. is the star of the team and looks to have a bright future in the NBA.

Watching their relationship unfold was bittersweet, especially as R.J. hit the game winning 3-pointer from 1.3 miles out to upset my Baylor Bears.

rj

But hearing Coach Ron Hunter’s press conference after they lost in the following round will stop you in your tracks.

If you didn’t watch the video, stop reading and go watch it. Seriously.

Ron Hunter’s no slouch. He got a school most of the country didn’t know existed into the national spotlight. But when he’s given a chance to say whatever he wants as a coach, he chooses instead to talk about his kid.

“I just love this kid”

And then he weeps. Not tears of sadness, but JOY. They joy of a father rejoicing over his kid.

He doesn’t cry polite, quiet sobs. These are loud, heaving, into the microphone, humiliating-but-don’t-care-who’s-watching-because-I-LOVE-THIS-KID tears.

That’s the way God loves his people.

Far too often, at least if you’re like me, you want to leave church on Sunday with a list of stuff to do.

  • Be a better husband this week.
  • Be slower to become angry.
  • Listen more.
  • Talk less more smack to Baylor haters.
  • Be quicker to repent.
  • Spend less money on things that don’t matter so I can give to things that do.

Your list may be different from mine, but most of the Christians I know think we’re doing good if we leave church with a list.

Maybe instead of a list God wants to give us his love.

Coach Hunter was asked the usual questions in his press conference.

  • What does this team mean to you?
  • What can you do to improve for next year?
  • How will you replace your leaders?

Sometimes we ask God lots of questions like that, too.

  • Who should I date?
  • What college should I attend?
  • Should I move my family for this job opportunity?

More often than not, God seems to respond to my questions like Coach Hunter, “I just love this kid.”

He doesn’t always answer our questions like we want because he wants to give us something better: his love!

Lists and questions aren’t bad. They show that we really care about how faith intersects our daily life.

But in all our list-making and question-asking how dare we miss the simple but life-changing divine declaration over every Christian, “I JUST LOVE THIS KID.”

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