Sunday, February 6, 2011

Showing team pride

Steeler religious experience
The service at church this morning was a very religious experience, but not for the reasons we usually think of. The congregation, similar to many others in the area, was very prominently adorned in black and gold. The Steelers in the Superbowl makes for a powerful spiritual experience – when they win. Churches in Green Bay may have been adorned this morning with plenty of green and yellow. While it’s great to show support and root for the home team, this brings up a question: How do others recognize that I’m on God’s team. My clothing? Jewelry? Church attendance? How should non-Christians notice my faith?

Tradition states that early Christians who, facing persecution, were able to identify fellow believers in Christ by use of the simple fish symbol. The ancient Greek word for fish was IXθYΣ (or IXOYE). This was allegedly used by followers of Christ as an acrostic meaning Iesous (Iota) Christos(Chi) Theou (Theta) Huios (Upsilon) Soter (Sigma) or Jesus Anointed God’s Son Savior. These symbols have been found in 1st century Roman catacombs. Other persecuted believers today may use similar symbols. However, in free societies today, there is no need to keep one’s faith secret.

Christian clothing
In some regions of past Muslim dominance, Christians (“People of the Book”) and Jews were instructed to wear different types of clothing to distinguish them. At one point, this included wearing of yellow clothing for Jews, while Christians were to wear black and dark blue. Although these colors of clothing included yellow and black, it is doubtful they would carry the Steelers trademark today. Some Muslim jurists at the time advised that Christians and Jews should be recognizable by different shoes, such as one shoe of one color and the second shoe of a different color. The dhimmis (infidels living within Islamic territory) were also advised to tie a bell on their feet at the public baths so as to be distinguishable from Muslims. [1]

Shining lights
Jesus told His followers, “Let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:16). How is that done? Jesus continued, “in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”. Good works are a primary method of shining our light. John wrote, “let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18) There’s nothing wrong with Christian symbols, shirts or bumper stickers, but our deeds should speak loudly of our faith. Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Christian team colors are shown by good works performed out of love for others.

[1] Andrew G. Bostom, Editor, The Legacy of Jihad, (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 218-219. Excerpted from Risala-yi Sawa’iq al-Yahud, “The Laws of Jizya”, Muhammad Al-Majlisi (d. 1699).