Recently, I listened to a sermon from one of my favorite pastors, Rankin Wilbourne of Pacific Crossroads Church in Los Angeles. In his preaching, he was focusing on the importance of Christian community by discussing John 8:7. This particular verse is overused and perhaps misused nowadays, but it still means a lot when examined properly: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”
At first glance it seems like an odd verse to use when describing how to build community. Yet so many potential relationships, and thus communities, are weakened or never get off the ground due to our tendency to pass judgment on one another.
For me, one of the most important communities I belong to throughout each stage of my life is my soccer team. I have been on a lot of different teams over the course of my career and I am about to embark on a brand new community this year with the Boston Breakers.
We had a difficult year last year, finishing second to last, which means that our team went through a number of changes in the offseason. Some players left for other teams, others decided to take new opportunities outside of soccer and a number of new players were added to the roster. All of this means I will have many new team members and just a few of the same people from last year remaining.
As the oldest on the team, I am preparing for a new perspective for this year as I will not need to be player/coach anymore. This year I will just be a player, but I want to be more than that. I want to be a mentor-leader. I want to be someone who can help these young players not only do their best each day, but I want to help them be the best they can be for the future, no matter what that may look like for them.
As I think about how to accomplish this, I think back to times in my life when I grew as a player and person. One constant theme during these times of growth was that I was a part of a positive community that both challenged and supported me to be better.
As I prepare for the year, I want this new team to join together without being judgmental of each other. I want us to bring each other up with our words and actions while being a team, rather than just seeking what is best for ourselves and running over anyone in our path at the cost of the team as a whole. Even though community is often challenging and at times messy, I hope I will be able to lead by example in building a community that grows its members rather than pushing them farther apart through judgment and selfish ambition.
I personally want to use my background of someone who loves Jesus to help build the Boston Breakers. I have failed so many times myself in being judgmental and not forgiving the way that Christ forgives.
However, I know I can keep learning what it means to be like Christ by working to build community with my teammates. As preseason approaches in just a little over a month, I want to help this team be the best team possible, which I believe starts by putting aside our instinct to judge one another and instead focus on how we can come together.