The Junior High girls soccer team I coach had a big rivalry game last week. Our team was the defending champs, facing the team that has played us for the championship the past 3 years.
We pulled up to the field of the opposing team and saw them practicing on the field, getting ready for the game. By the time we had exited the bus, gathered our equipment and made our way out to the field, they were gone! Nowhere to be found. As the girls set their belongings down beside the field, we discovered what happened to the other team.
With a roar, they came running out of the school toward the field screaming and waving their arms (Braveheart Style). They then proceeded to try to intimidate our girls in every way possible throughout the 1 hour warm-up period: screaming chants, lining up single-file with arms crossed at mid-field while staring down our team, and leaving the field 2 more times to re-enter with more screaming.
The girls on my team didn't know how to respond. "What are they doing?" "Why are they acting so crazy?" "Coach, they're really pumped up, we've got to do something!!" Panic was setting in. The intimidation was working.
The way I saw it, we had 2 choices: Respond in kind, or keep doing things the way that's helped us be successful.
And so I begged our girls: "Mind your business. Ignore them. Just be yourself and do the things that got you here. If you change to respond to them, then you won't be playing your kind of soccer."
This greatly parallels the experience of the Christ-follower. We are given a formula for success: the imitation of Christ (1 Cor 11:1). As long as we continue in the imitation of Christ (loving our neighbor, sharing the good news of God's grace, embracing those who are weak) we will always be on the right track, regardless of the changing circumstances around us.
Recently, I have had several conversations with other Christians and received email forwards that aim to alert Christianity to the dangers of the movement of Islam. They point out the fundamentalists who push for jihad and talk about how Islam desires to take over our country. The implication is that we should be aware, alert, and afraid, so that we can fight against the coming "enemy".
But what is the point of this? Does this skeptical/judgmental vigilance of "the other team" really help me to be more effective in my imitation of Christ? Does suspecting my Muslim neighbor might really have faith-based political motives help me to love him or others better?
Or does it cause me to adjust my game? Do I change my pursuit of faithful living to adjust for the new worries that surround me? Does it cause me to judge my neighbor at the expense of loving them? Does it cause us to pursue effectiveness at the expense of faithfulness?
Jesus was once asked if the Jewish people should pay taxes to the godless Caesar. Jesus took the coin bearing Caesar's image and responded, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God (Luke 20:20-25)." Translated, "focus on your purpose with God, and don't pick fights that don't need to be picked."
We don't need to worry about Caesar...or the Muslims...or even the (dun dun dun....) anti-Christ.
We should take a loving stand for the way of Jesus and his priorities whether or not there exists anyone who feels differently.
We should "play our game" effectively, regardless of what "the other teams" are doing.
We should mind our own business.