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God and Gorillas Part. 2: Seeing the Big Picture

I recently started watching the TV series Friday Night Lights (FNL). In one of the episodes the coach is trying to decide between a young, backup QB (Saracen) who took over for the injured hometown star and Ray “Voodoo” Tatum a superstar QB displaced after the floods in New Orleans. In one scene, the coach is describing the choice he has to make. Saracen is disciplined, a team player, and someone the rest of the players respect. Voodoo is untrustworthy, selfish, but can get the win.

The coach ends up starting Voodoo who, at one point in the first half, decides to begin ignore the coach’s calls and to run his own plays. After a successful drive resulting in a TD, Voodoo’s independent play calling results in an pick six. The coach benches Voodoo in favor of Saracen who ends up winning the game by providing a key block in the fourth quarter.

So, what does the plot line of an episode of FNL have to do with staying on task? A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled “God and Gorillas“ reflecting on “inattentional blindness” and how it might keep us from focusing on our primary task. In FNL, there is a continual tension between doing what it takes to win and becoming a team worthy of victory. The episode describe above illustrates that tension well. Is the primary task winning a football game? Is it developing the character of the players and the team? That tension doesn’t just make for good television. It also reflects a tension we feel, as the body of Christ, as we seek to offer faithful testimony in a fallen world.

So, how can we focus on our primary task? What exactly would that mean for a people who have been brought together to proclaim the gospel to the world in word and deed? I think there are at least two lessons we should keep in mind.

First, the means we use are not justified by the ends we achieve. Rather, our means are ends in and of themselves. We don’t get to ignore the coaches plays even if what we do results in a touchdown. We fit within the scheme God determines. We follow his lead and walk in accordance with his wisdom. We are members of a body of which Christ is the head. We don’t get to leave the rest of the body behind in order to do what we think is right. Part of what it means, then, to stay on task is to situate ourselves within the body of Christ.

Second, by recognizing that how we live is more important than what we achieve, we can resist the pressures to become “bigger and better.” When the coach in FNL chose to start Voodoo, he made winning his top priority. He diminished his task of building the character of his team and the individuals on it (arguably his primary task). For us, the pressure to win is seldom trivial, yet we must redefine what it means to succeed. Success is not found in “the win,” but in the development of the sort of character that allows us to be what God requires despite our circumstances. We have a bigger picture that we must keep in mind. We have to consider that being who God requires may not result in what looks like a “win” to those outside the Kingdom of God.

I’ll end this post with a thought from Thinking Christian. I feel it is a good reminder of our primary task, which is not to “win” or to achieve a particular end, but to attend to the way we live regardless of the outcomes that might be achieved: “Once the end justifies the means, we run the risk of forgetting that the worst case scenario is less about the outcome and more about who we demonstrate ourselves to be as we achieve (or fail to achieve) that outcome.” To put it another way, who we are and how we live reveals who we serve and where we live. May God grant us the wisdom and strength to live as members of His Kingdom.

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