SPORTS: Lebron James' theology

GARRETTSVILLE, Ohio (BP) -- Being a resident of northeast Ohio, I've had a lot of fun watching Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers as they clawed their way to an NBA title. At times I have lamented as the star basketball player has been lionized and other times vilified for his views on life.

James' passion for playing and winning basketball games has been analyzed, questioned and even challenged over the years. He has proven he can take on a seemingly larger-than-life goal and achieve it.

My question is, What can we learn from his single-minded pursuit of sports greatness?

In an interview seen on television and quoted at ESPN.com, we get a brief if unintended theology from Lebron as reflected in Cleveland's historic victory:

"I don't know why the man above give me the hardest road, but ... the man above don't put you in situations that you can't handle," James said after the final buzzer on Sunday. "I just kept that same positive attitude. Instead of saying, 'Why me?' I said, 'This is what He wants me to do.' And Cleveland, this is for you."

Is there anything of value a man or woman of God can learn from this or is it just more worldly wisdom to be discarded? Is this what we teach our children? Can you really have anything you want if you set your mind to it and develop the physical attributes to carry it out, especially if that goal is somehow deemed honorable?

Looking at the obvious, this is not the hardest road. Lebron James is a grown man making millions of dollars to play a kids' game. He has not toiled in obscurity and has won multiple honors even as he has taken flak from sportswriters and fans at times.

Yet there is something noble in both James' words and actions that we Southern Baptists and other Christians might well consider: It is time to stop complaining about the situation in which we find ourselves in the world and to pursue our calling.

This is a time of great need in our nation and around the world. It often seems the forces of evil have hemmed us in. Our good is maligned and in some ways there seem to be historic losses in the face of the ever-present culture wars.

It seems hard. So what? It is time for us to take our eyes off the people and situations that would inhibit us and focus on our understanding of our great God. If He has chosen us to live in such a time as this, then our response should not be "Why me?" but "What would you have me do, Lord?" If a young man from a poor community in northeast Ohio can rise to the top of his craft by believing he is called and then living his life accordingly, what about us? Are we not the called of God? Isn't our mission greater than ending a sports championship drought?

Men, women, boys and girls are going to hell because many who have been chosen by God to teach, preach and heal have often settled for the distractions of seeking their own comfort rather than developing the gritty determination to follow the will of our God.

Frankly I am not too sure about Lebron James' overall theological stance. But it sure seems right for us to be able to live our lives in such a way that we can confidently say, "This is what He wants me to do." When that happens, there will be even more joy in heaven for eternity than is being expressed in northeast Ohio for this brief season.

David Gray is pastor of First Baptist Church in Garrettsville, Ohio, and a former president of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
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