This past weekend, I was at a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City between the Royals and their cross-state rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a really entertaining game played on a beautiful, sunny day—and it is always fun to be at the ballpark. But what really got my attention was a particular Cardinals fan. She screamed, shouted, cheered, urged, and cajoled her team—even though she was in the Royals’ park and surrounded by Royals fans! When the Royals fans would cheer, she would scream all the more loudly for the Redbirds. I kept wondering how long it would take before a Royals fan started yelling at her. She was fearless, however, boldly and shamelessly showing her allegiance to her beloved Cardinals even though she was deep in the heart of enemy territory.
Paul wrote to a church that was definitely in the heart of enemy territory in the 1st century—the church at Rome. Living in a pagan community dominated by multiple gods and Caesar worship, the Roman believers could easily have been tempted to back off from declaring their faith in Christ, but Paul, encouraged them by his own example when he wrote:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
Paul encouraged them to follow his lead by fearlessly standing for the Savior—even though they were in enemy territory. In our generation, as followers of Christ, we face pressures less direct and more subtle, but there are pressures nonetheless to soften our identification as followers of Jesus. The question is, will we only identify with the Master when it is safe, or will we stand for Him unashamed, even when we find ourselves in enemy territory?
Bill Crowder, Sport Spectrum Chaplain