Knowing When To Switch Sides

Did you hear about the Brandon High School quarterback who switched sides at halftime last week?

He’d led his team to 3 touchdowns in the first half, while the other team’s quarterback left the game injured. The opponents had no backup quarterback and struggled through offensive plays (really struggled, as you can see in the video linked above) as they finished the half scoreless.

Brandon’s coach asked his starting quarterback to play for the other team. In a show of great sportsmanship, both teams played hard in the second half and the game ended 46-14.

Quarterback Mason Mathieu said of the other team, “They’re a great group of guys, I mean I loved it. It was great.”

Barrier Breakdown

Being in God’s family is great too, and from what I’ve read in the Bible you’re either in or you’re out. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who falls into which category, though.

Jesus’ friends thought they had it pegged: if you’re not one of those who are close to Jesus, travelling with him, sitting under his teaching daily, then you’re not one of his disciples – you don’t belong to him. Jesus said otherwise.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:38-40.)

Later, people tried to draw the line in different places, telling non-Jews that they could not follow Jesus unless they first became Jewish. Paul had strong words for those who insisted that Christians must also follow Jewish laws and customs (Galatians 5:12), and he set people straight: the old way of dividing people into categories does not apply in God’s kingdom.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.(Colossians 3:11.)


There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28.)

So to analogize from the football story above, the players on the field may have worn different uniforms and come from different schools, but the Brandon High School coach saw them differently. He looked on the field and saw football players – not one team from one school and the other team from another school – just players who wanted to play football. What they wore and where they were from and how well they played didn’t matter.

That’s how it is for us too:

  • Where we’re from doesn’t disqualify us in our relationship with Jesus or one another in God’s family.
  • What we look like doesn’t disqualify us in our relationship with Jesus or one another in God’s family.
  • How well we perform doesn’t disqualify us in our relationship with Jesus or one another in God’s family.

Jesus just sees us as people who belong to God. That’s what he told our heavenly Father, and that’s what the Bible tells us.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23.)

Who are we then, in Jesus? We are people that can be with everyone else who belongs to Jesus, no matter where we’re from, no matter what our differences might be.

We are all on the same team after all, because we are one in Jesus just as Jesus and the Father are one.


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20 Responses to Knowing When To Switch Sides

  1. Laura Droege says:

    Excellent post, Tim. (No surprise there.)

    But I wonder about this: Some people think there really shouldn’t be any line between who’s “in” or “out”, that Christians are too exclusive and that our conception of Jesus is too narrow (and ought to include other religious figures or paths to salvation). Couldn’t they see this type of talk of Christians-all-being-one-no-matter-our-differences as being evidence that we ought to broaden our definition of Christian to include other “good people” from other religions? (I’m not sure if I’m making sense; I need caffeine this morning!)

    • Tim says:

      I see what you mean, Laura. My response would be that the only way to the Father is through the Son. Jesus is clear about that, just as the Bible is also clear that the only forgiveness of sin is through him. And that the only way one is spiritually alive is by the power of the Holy Spirit. If someone wants to insist that Jesus also meant the way to God can be found through faith in other people/things, they they won’t be talking about being in God’s family through the work of Christ and the power of the Spirit.

      Are we exclusive by insisting that this is the only way it works? Yes. Because this is how Jesus told us it works.

  2. I am shocked that you could even suggest that there could be shades of grey in our Christian walk. It’s black and white so that we all know where we stand and can follow the rules to get into heaven!

    • Tim says:

      Black and white line drawing is an elusive exercise when it comes to faith, isn’t it? As you said in your re-blog related comment below, Jesus didn’t give those types of easy answers. He did tell people that the way to go was by following him, and the Bible has enough in it about that to keep anyone busy enough to now really have to bother with line drawing any longer.

  3. Reblogged this on multicolouredsmartypants and commented:
    When I think I know who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’ is when I have to question the mechanics of my faith. Jesus was always rather cagey on who exactly is ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’. He always refused to answer questions like that, always turning such questions back around to the questioner. He continually pointed out those assumed to be ‘out’ as being those whom He valued.

  4. Jeremy M. says:

    This is certainly not the type of story you hear too often, it is a good find. The sad thing is it often seems like groups of Christians often act like we’re in some kind of competition just as often. Whether it be the competition between local churches or larger denominations. Not only would the quarterback (pastor?) not be allowed to switch teams to help out, often it seems we’ve forgotten that we’re on the same team to begin with.

    • Tim says:

      Exactly, Jeremy. There are no teams within the church because we’re all part of one family under one Father, one kingdom under one King.

      • Laura Droege says:

        It would be an interesting thing if two churches decided to swap head pastors for a certain period of time. Even within the same denomination, there would be sparks flying, I’m sure. But if both congregations and pastors agreed, they might learn some valuable lessons. We seem to be okay with visiting ministers for a Sunday or two, but if it was longer term and the visiting minister actually got involved at his “new” church (not making leadership decisions, but getting into the other church’s existing ministries), there would be some fascinating discussions of what it means to be the body of Christ. (Hmm, this might make an interesting reality TV show: Pastor Swap.)

  5. Aimee Byrd says:

    You always find the coolest news stories, Tim.

  6. Jeannie says:

    This is a great story, Tim — so inspiring! I also like the message you derived from it. I wonder whether the desire to determine who’s in or out is part of what God meant when He told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil — because it would cause us to want to judge what’s good and evil and WHO is good (in) and evil (out). I know discernment is important, and that’s not really what I’m talking about — more the desire to judge out of a feeling of power or entitlement or even fear.

  7. Pastor Bob says:

    I saw sportsmanship, in this case applied courtesy and respectful conduct. The winning team decided to give the other team a fighting chance, and looked good for that.
    What I thought as i saw the title in my email was taking a position on an issue, doing th research on it, and discovering that the position was wrong. This happened to me, and my father was opposed to my thinking, and showed me some flaws. After finishing research in the library, I found the flaws and ended up agreeing with my father. Conclusion here: facts speak.
    Your story, how to be chivalrous where this seems to be a dying social skill.

  8. I feel so included just reading this! Thanks, Tim. We really are all one. I wish we’d all stop making ourselves feel better by judging against our neighbor, and instead let everyone in who wanted to come in and get to know Jesus together.

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