The Miami Heat have won 27 consecutive basketball games. For regular readers of this space, you'll know that I take great pleasure in this. What I don't take great pleasure in, however, is our collective inability to celebrate an unassailably great accomplishment.
The all-time NBA record for consecutive victories is 33, by the Los Angeles Lakers (of Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West) during the 1971-72 season. Naturally, there is great interest to see whether or not Miami can break this record. But the interest doesn't stop there. No. We must know, for instance, if this Miami team is "as great" as that Laker team. Where, indeed, does this Miami team rank historically? Does this streak become "meaningless" if the Heat don't cap the season with a championship? It is an incredibly rare thing to hear someone say, "Gosh, this winning streak is really a wonderful achievement and really fun to watch," without moving immediately to attempt to categorize exactly how wonderful it is.
Walt Frazier, a retired NBA legend, has said that this iteration of the Heat "doesn't come close" to being ranked in the top ten teams of all time. I wouldn't presume to argue with his assertion (actually, of course I would: this Heat team is all-time good...maybe not better than the 72-win Bulls, but top ten easily), but I do wonder why we feel like we need to make such assertions at all.
It's the Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy Syndrome.
We do the same thing with our Christianity. It isn't enough to be a Christian, is it? We must immediately know just how good a Christian you are. I once actually had someone ask me how many people I'd converted. This was before I was in full-time ministry...I was just a college kid! I was supposed to give basketball-style stats on the efficiency of my Christian witness. It was, as I'm sure you can imagine, an incredible turn-off.
Yet we do it all the time. Most of the time, we do it subconsciously, when we think that "so-and-so is such a faithful woman of God," or that "he is such a prayerful man." It seems a steep slope from the prodigal son-style "coming to" and becoming a Christian to the relentless categorization of our proficiency as a new follower of Christ. Just how closely are you following him, anyway?
Remember the best line from John Newton's classic "Amazing Grace?" Of course, there are many great lines, but the best (IMHO) is "How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed." The implication is clear: it's incredibly easy for us to forget how profoundly we needed that grace when we found ourselves eating the pods with the pigs. The moment we feel safe, we start to compare ourselves to the other prodigals who've returned to the farm. Who's repaying the Father best?
Let's go the other way. Let's do what John Newton would have us do, and remember the precious nature of God's grace, given to us when we didn't compare favorably to anyone for any reason. Let's celebrate the Heat for doing something amazing. In fact, in Christ, everything's amazing. If we're lucky, for a moment, we can hear that...and just be happy.
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