In a wonderfully played national championship game, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels fully made up a 10 point deficit with less than 5 minutes left to play when Marcus Paige made a circus-like 3-point shot to tie up the game with only 4.7 seconds left. Paige’s shot was extremely clutch with a very high degree of difficulty and it sent Tar Heel fans into an explosion of celebration.
But Paige’s shot wasn’t “the” shot. The Villanova University Wildcats had one last chance to regain the lead and avoid entering into an overtime where North Carolina would have all the momentum. Having to go the length of the court with only those 4.7 seconds left, the ball was inbounded to Ryan Arcidiacono who quickly and masterfully dribbled it up the court. When nearing the 3-point line Arcidiacono, forwent the opportunity to take the potential game winning shot and passed it back slightly to the trailing Kris Jenkins who had inbounded the ball. Jenkins caught the pass and immediately raised up at 25 feet from the basket and released the ball with 0.8 seconds left. In a moment that seemingly hit slow-motion, the ball arced through the air as the clock hit all zeroes and then splashed through the net for the game winning points and the championship and set off all kinds of pandemonium in Villanova fandom. Kris Jenkins had made “the shot”.
The new college basketball season has recently started up and there is a source of contentment when watching my Villanova Wildcats. There is no anxiety as to whether the team can succeed or not. No more concern of having a great regular season only to come up short in the postseason. No more worrying about another heartbreak in a city who knows far more sporting anguish than it does celebration. This team has done it. It just plain feels good watching them continuing to play well while cherishing what they accomplished just last season.
While Arcidiacono and fellow senior starter Daniel Ochefu graduated and have departed for professional endeavors, Kris Jenkins is back for one more year. And in my book, he can shoot all he wants. He has had a couple games this year where he has struggled with his shot. I don’t care. He made the shot that mattered. He can shoot all we wants because he is golden in my eyes.
We all have those heroes in life who we look up to. Those who we admire for what they have done, and sometimes have even done for us. Sometimes the admiration is from afar and other times it is for someone who is very close to us, and everything in between. Our loyalty can be fierce because of the good they have done and the ways they have come through for us. They are golden in our eyes.
It doesn’t matter it they start missing a few shots here and there. They made the one that counted. We don’t care if they have some bad games, they came through for us when we needed or wanted it most. No matter now, even when their continual misses are causing harm to the team. We can overlook and forgive their trespasses because of what they did in the past.
Loyalty is generally a good thing, but at what point can our loyalty sometimes become more harmful than good? How many shots can our heroes or admired ones miss until we re-evaluate our devotion? Not that we should just ditch them in the street, but does the manner in which we convey our allegiance sometimes give license to the objects of our admiration to continue missing shots? Does our sense of overlooking and forgiving sometimes heap even more hurt on those who already suffered harm from the missed shots?
We know we are all fallen. That we all are going to sin and screw up at times, even our heroes. When our admired ones do mess up, this does not mean we should cut off our attachment and declare them anathema? But how do we handle their failures? Of course we could and should forgive. But there is much more to it than that.
Those who we are loyal to may have done a lot of good. They may even continue to do much good. But when they do sin or bungle a situation in some manner that brings harm, can we see this? And not only can we see this, but can we react appropriately to those who have been hurt by our cherished ones’ actions?
There is obvious application here to our culture of celebrity worship that often infects even Christian arenas. The placing of the Christian celebrity on a pedestal can be a big problem in the evangelical culture. But it doesn’t even need to be a celebrity. It can be our not-so-celebrity pastor or anybody else in our lives. When loyalty to a person or even a cause leads us to treat others wrongfully or to not react suitably to their hurts or concerns, we should be re-evaluating how we are acting on our loyalties.
Those who have come through for us, who have comforted and helped us in our struggles, who have taught us good things, who have been good friends, have earned our respect and loyalties. It would be completely wrong to treat the parents who lovingly and sacrificially raised us through our entire childhood the same way we would a stranger on the street. Not that we should treat the stranger poorly, but you know what I mean.
However, we should demonstrate good judgment in seeing that our loyalty demonstrates righteousness. Righteous loyalty shows honor and deference and appreciation as is appropriate. Unrighteous loyalty covers up wrongs, alienates others, and gives license to more wrongdoing.
Kris Jenkins can shoot all he wants in my book. But if he starts overdoing it and is missing too many shots and becomes too wrapped up in himself, this is not good for the team. If I somehow played a real role in Jenkins’ basketball life, my full consent to his shooting could potentially bring harm to the team, depending on how situations played out. I would need to be wise enough to recognize those situations and react accordingly.
Lord, help us in real life to find the harmony of showing loyalty to those who have earned it while also remaining wise and righteous in our loyalties. Help us to remember that only You Lord, is worthy of our complete and undivided loyalty.