Many times the passion for sport starts early in a child’s life. My six-year-old daughter has developed quite an affinity for the game of soccer. So when I heard that the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team was playing close to home a daddy daughter date became a must. As we ate popcorn and cheered the USA as they battled France in our nation’s capitol she asked me a very relevant question. “Daddy, why do the goalies have on different colored uniforms?” Indeed the goalies for each team wore neon green and radiant blue respectively, while the rest of the players donned white or red. For the next few seconds we conversed about the importance of the goalie being easily identifiable among the other players. That while they were all soccer players, the goalie had special privileges to touch the ball with her hands and that if she blended in it would be difficult for the referees, other players, and fans like us to know where she was in the melee of corner kicks and other shots on goal. Because of who they are and their specific calling, goalkeepers need to visibly stand out, not only to enjoy the glorious celebration of the perfect save but to courageously shoulder the disappointment and ridicule of a failed attempt.
Although our clothes may not be fluorescent, believers in Christ are called to be set apart and sanctified, physically living in the world but spiritually not of it. Our lifestyles, responses, convictions and desires should be remarkably different than many of our closest friends and colleagues. While we are IN the world, we are not OF the world but have been chosen OUT of the world and because of this the world may hate us in the same way it hated Him (John 15:19). The pressure to conform is one common to every one of us yet the command to be transformed is of greater consequence, not only for our own sake but for the lives affected by the brilliance of the light we shine into the darkness. The legitimate fear of falling and dishonoring His name should not lead us to trade our distinct uniform for a common one. Instead it should drive us to our knees, pleading that Christ be glorified in our strength and even more so in our times of weakness.
As my daughter and I continued to watch the game, rain pouring and the pristine green morphing into a muddy mess, the goal keepers, their once vivid uniforms soiling, remained unfazed, sacrificing their bodies with seemingly no regard for personal well being in service to the group of players whose goal and ensuing fate they were protecting. Though our citizenship is in heaven, our present work is on earth and our various occupations, web of relationships, and geographical locations all breed unique opportunities to use our God given talents to serve the specific needs of a diverse population with the ultimate goal of winning souls for eternity. Being a peculiar people should not make us aloof or apathetic. Instead the grace and freedom we enjoy should move us to be keenly aware of the happenings of our day, not because they control our destiny but because they provide opportunities to strategically speak truth in love to a world absent of both.
On the drive home as we laughed about our favorite moments of the game that night, she beamed in affirmation that playing soccer was indeed her passion and agreed that realizing that goal would take a life of dedication discipline and standing out from the crowd. My prayer, as her father is that she passionately lives a life that, much like the goalie’s uniform, stands out from the crowd in more ways than one.