The Universities of Illinois and Michigan met in a mighty face-off in Champaign, Illinois in 1924 to settle an argument over superiority in Big Ten football. They had shared the title in 1923, not having played each other.
Michigan brought to the game a tradition of dominance in the Conference. Illinois paraded on the field with a certain “Galloping ghost” called Harold “Red” Grange in the squad. His reputation when a sophomore rankled Michigan. He had only been so successful the year before, they said, because he hadn’t met Michigan tacklers. Like warriors putting on their armor, they boasted that Grange wouldn’t pass the line of scrimmage.
The Michigan coach proved his confidence by having the kick-off directed to Grange. Sixty-seven thousand fans watched as #77 caught the ball and raced 95 yards for a T.D. The second time he touched the ball he went 67 yards for a T.D. The third time he went 55 yards for a T. D. Before the game finished, Red Grange had gained 402 yards and scored 5—count ‘em—5 touchdowns! With him targeted by the vaunted Michigan defense. With a bulls-eye on his every move. With Michigan reputations and boasts at stake. Still Grange shredded the opposition. American History Illustrated, November 1965, p. 30.
Jesus Christ understood being the target of the opposition, in his case the entire leadership of Israel. See Luke 5:17, 5:30, Mark 2:18, John 5:10, 18, Mark 3:2 as a few of more examples. Once his fame reached critical levels, Jesus always taught, healed and exorcised demons in the presence of hostile critics.
Yet he continued to teach and heal and exorcise, to take unpopular stands and criticize those who felt righteous in their own eyes. What an example Jesus set for all his people as they find their witness challenged, unpopular and opposed, sometimes physically.
What to do, then, Christians, when we confront hostile situations, audiences and certain persecution if we speak up for Jesus? Why, what else? SPEAK UP for Jesus.
The Gospel has always had enough fearsome teaching to give listeners pause; to make them recoil; to stir their animosity. At no time more than now. Nowhere is this more obvious in reaching the unsaved. In a day when preachers are often afraid of people, especially the unsaved, it isn’t politically correct to call people sinners; to tell the unsaved they need to have their sins forgiven. It’s a lot less challenging to promise the lost that church can provide fellowship, friendship, better marriages, child care and a happier life. But is it what Jesus did? Is it what he would do now? Would he let the lost tell him how they’ll be found?
God equips us to be spiritual Red Granges if we serve Jesus Christ as Jesus Christ served him. Will we accept his commission as the condition of being equipped with God’s protective armor?
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