There's No "I" In Team - January 22, 2017

Exodus 20:12-13

Football is a team sport. We know this, right? 11 for each team on the field and a gazillion on the sidelines (NFL 53, college 80 on the roster). Generally, a few players or positions are known and get all the glory, but everyone who is worth his salt knows he can't do his job if they aren't doing their job. We learn the names of quarterbacks, receivers and running backs and they get the glory. They throw and catch the ball and make the game exciting. At least on a surface level, but really, if the linemen don't block, the quarterback gets sacked and the ball doesn't move down the field, generally, it moves back up the field. And if you're playing defense, if the big linemen don't hold their line, your linebackers and safeties won't ever make it to sack their quarterback or the defensive

backs won't be able to catch the running backs. Every position on the field has a responsibility and work to do, and only when they do it well together, not just for themselves or their own glory, is it really a good team that makes for a good game. But beyond what happens on the field, there's a dynamic of teamwork that cultivates the culture of sportsmanship for the whole team. And beyond one team there are so many more, for if there are no opponents, there's no game. And beyond the NFL teams, there are the college teams that create excitement and energy around the sport and who nurture those who will one day play in the NFL, but before them, there's the high school teams and before them, there's the junior league teams. And really, before them, there's countless coaches, players, refs, and fans who have followed, played and participated in the game for years. In some form or fashion, every game that we watch on TV today stands on the shoulders of every game that's been played before. Those men on that field wouldn't be able to do what they do, or make the money they do if there weren't a long history before them.
That's a pretty obtuse way of thinking about the game, but hopefully, it helps us understand that no person, no play, no game, no team stands alone as independently strong. No matter how great they are, they wouldn't be able to be that without all the others who have gone before them. And, in team sports, even as the weakest team in the league, no one person can take the full blame. Each one is part of a team, and the team rises together and it falls together. Each individual is interdependent on the others who stand beside him.
All of that is true, but we aren't really talking about football, are we? After all, life is a team sport too. We often like to think we are there on our own. We celebrate independently wealthy, or independently successful. But really there is no such thing. Because without the others on the field of life, no single person could be who they are or do what they do. We are dependent on others for everything. We rely on others to cultivate, harvest, ship, and sell our food. We rely on others to build our homes, our schools, our cars, and our offices. We rely on others to be at the gas station at midnight when we need a quick stop. We rely on others to make sure the electricity, gas, and sewers are all working properly. And if we run away to the woods to live by ourselves, to get away from it all, claiming that we are really on our own and independent, we forget that someone built the roads we would drive or built the car we would drive, or taught us how to walk. Someone manufactured the tent or at least the fabric of our clothes and our blankets, and someone made our supplies. Someone taught us to garden, start a fire, cook, look for food, and protect ourselves. We are only able to be who we are today because of those who have gone before us.
When God gives us the commandment to honor our mother and our father, we are asked to do that—to honor them. But doing that means appreciating who we are and where we come from. Honoring our parents means honoring the whole of our past. Because who would our parents be without their parents and their parents without theirs before them? But of course it's not just a 2 parents and a child, but there are brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins. The web of people that form our family is immense. And we would not be who we are today without them. We have learned our values, our manners, and our habits from them. From a young age, we picked up on sayings, quirks, and customs without even realizing it. We are who we are, in so many ways, because of our parents. Now that doesn't mean that we have to love everything we were taught or believe everything they believe. We have become our own persons. We are independent and responsible for our own lives. But no matter how far we might move from the place of our childhood, it is still part of us.
Some of us are more eager to celebrate that than others. Some of us had a great childhood with happy memories. We can remember the time our parents spent with us, family game nights, cooking in the kitchen together, talking about our day, and taking family vacations. And others of us had a much harder time. Others of us faced arguments and abuse. Our parents didn't ask us about our day, they yelled at us because the chores weren't done or the food wasn't right. Some of us parented our parents in the midst of an illness or an addiction. Our childhoods were not universally good or rosy. But, for better and for worse, they have shaped us to become who we are today. We've learned to love, we learned fear. We learned perseverance. We learned hard work. We learned communication. We learned to fend for ourselves. We learned to trust. And we learned to doubt.
All of us come from somewhere and were shaped by someone, normally a lot of someones, and it's important to remember that we are part of a team, whether it feels like it in our daily work or not. We are part of a bigger story. And we are invited to honor that story. The details of that get a little complicated. In honoring our parents, we ask questions about whether we should be supplying their needs, moving them into the extra bedroom, moving in with them, taking them on daily errands, or putting them in a care facility. Those questions are not easily answered. And each of us will need to answer them differently, based on our own circumstances, just like our parents had to decide what was best for each of us on a daily basis. How much instruction, how much help, how much discipline, how much indulgence. Our parents, and the others who raised us had to make those decisions each day. And we, as we honor our parents, we are faced with our own set of decisions. The specifics will differ for each of us. But the foundation and premise of how we answer must be based on an awareness of and appreciation for the story that comes before ours. Our decisions are more likely to honor our parents if we understand how our story is intricately woven with theirs.

You shall honor life—every life—and recognize the value of each life.
It sounds so simple and yet clearly, we have a problem with this one. We all know this is not how the world works. No sooner have we uttered the commandment "thou shalt not murder" do we begin to voice objections:
• What about self-defense?
• What about just war?
• What about cases of incest and rape?
• What about for mass murderers?
The law sounds well and good until we think about the complexities of life. We think we'd like there to be no murder, but realistically it seems too idealistic and utopian for most of us, not all of us, but most of us. Thou shalt not murder. It just doesn't seem possible. I mean maybe I'd never kill anyone, and maybe you'd never kill anyone—but what about the military? What about the officer who's called to a hostage situation? What about the parent protecting their child from violence or abuse? What about the doctor trying to save a mother's life even though the baby won't make it? What about them and those circumstances? Certainly, killing is bound to happen—someone is going to have to do it because not everyone values life like God commands. And not every situation has a simple peaceful ending. There are countless exceptions to the rule.
So then how are we to understand the spirit of the law if we can't foresee holding to the letter of the law?
Think of it this way—honor, and respect every life equally. It still probably sounds overly simplistic but if we lived by this rule, we'd be a lot closer to fulfilling the 6th commandment.
To think of it in context, we're going to look at some recent events, events that challenge what many of us believe about "rightful" death and "wrongful" death. And events that often stir our politics. I'm not trying to be political. I'm wanting us to think about the commandment in concrete terms, not just in theory. The recent events and court decisions around Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York have reignited the #blacklivesmatter movement across the country. The movement is founded upon the belief that some lives are treated as more valuable than other lives. And so there is a clear response to declare that black lives DO matter. Now, some of you are ready to argue, "Why can't we just say, "All lives matter"?"
We can. And they do. All lives matter. Black lives matter. And white lives matter. Brown lives matter. And Asian lives matter. Young lives matter. Old lives matter. Famous lives matter and unknown lives matter. American lives matter and Iraqi lives matter. Military lives matter and terrorist lives matter.
That one got you, didn't it? Terrorist lives matter. And so do the lives of those they threaten and those they kill. Every life matters. The objections that are surfacing in your mind are only a sign that we struggle to embrace God's truth that all lives matter equally. In human terms, we think there have to be exceptions. Terrorists. Mass murderers. Pedophiles. How can their lives matter in equal portion to innocent victims? That logic doesn't even hold up in our minds. For most of us, it doesn't even count as logic. But God's truth is that every person, every single person, is a beloved son or daughter of God and every life matters. Sinners and saints. Believers and non-believers. Insiders and outsiders. Every life matters. And if they matter to God then they should matter to us. And if we saw with God's eyes, and loved with God's heart, we would see that every life matters. And we might not be so quick to make the exception about which lives we could sacrifice.
I'm not saying that is easy or simple. But it is our work, as followers of Christ, to live God's laws and to share God's love. And when we do that, genuinely and wholeheartedly, we begin to see with God's eyes and we see the value of each person.
All lives matter equally. Maybe we can say that, but we struggle to live it. All of us. If we didn't struggle to respect and value each life on the same level, then we wouldn't have to make claims reminding ourselves or our society that black lives matter, young lives matter, LGBT lives matter, or disabled lives matter. All lives matter. Lives that look like ours and lives that don't. Lives that speak our language and lives that don't. Lives that worship like ours and lives that don't. Lives that think like we do and lives whose beliefs trample ours. God's standard is not one of "either/or" but instead one of "both/and." To live the 6th commandment is to look with the eyes of Christ. It is to see that those we hate and those we scorn are also beloved children of God. We don't have to agree with their politics, or their actions, or their beliefs. But our arguments, discord, and bitterness do not affect their inherent value as a child of God. Everyone, every single person, matters equally to God. And to honor each life is to recognize and respect how beloved they are.

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