Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Thinking back to the Middle Ages, back to when I was in high school and college, I remember our school had special rivalries with other teams. A defeat by one of these rivals was incredibly bitter, and a victory over them was cause for dancing in the streets.
I also remember when we lost, our coaches encouraged, no, they demanded we suffer defeat with dignity. That meant, when the game was over, our team lined up and gave a reluctant and unenthusiastic high five to the opponents who were grinning at us from ear to ear.
It was a hard thing to do, but we did it. We did it because that's what good sportsmanship demanded.
But, like I say, that was then, and this is now. Today things are different. Recognizing those differences the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has ordered no handshakes be given after an athletic contest. Further, officials have been told they must leave immediately after the game is over.
Why the change?
In the last three years there have been more than two dozen physical confrontations between players as they shook hands. That's right. The players shook hands at and not with the other team. As for the refs, they have to get out of the building before someone threatens or accosts them.
How sad. It's sad this kind of thing is happening, and it's equally sad Kentucky has chosen to ban handshakes, rather than demanding good sportsmanship from the coaches, parents and teams under their control.
In contrast to such poor behavior, we Christians are supposed to love one another. Indeed, John says we are to love as the Savior has loved us. That means following Jesus' example, we are to love somebody even if they aren't especially lovable. That is what Jesus did, isn't it? He came to earth and was maligned and mistreated, hated and hounded, despised and defamed, beaten, bruised and crucified. In spite of all the abuse, the Savior continued to love and sacrificed Himself for us.
Yes, that's what Christians are supposed to do. I say supposed to do because there are times when we fail at loving. We bicker and become bitter about that which is trivial; we complain and criticize over real and imagined slights. Our words can become caustic, and our family of faith can get involved in endless feuds.
All of this takes me to the point of this devotion. That point says if I believe high school and college athletes in Kentucky are supposed to be good sports, I also ought to encourage God's people in the church to do the same.
So, my friends, consider yourself encouraged.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, it's not always easy for me to love other people, and I suppose it's not always easy for other people to love me. That is why I ask that the Holy Spirit may help me love others as Jesus loved me, and help me be a person who can easily be loved. In the Savior's Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries