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Sunday, July 13, 2014

LeBron is Like Jesus

I have never been a huge fan of the NBA. I have had a passing knowledge of the better teams and more famous players, but I have never studied the NBA the way I did with baseball in my youth. That said, I have been aware of the LeBron James saga because it is in the news. Most of us know that he recently signed with Cleveland to return to the team (and city) which he had left four seasons ago.

I am aware that multi-millionaire athletes have image consultants. I know that there are professionals who are "image consultants" and that they create a "public face" which they market to the world. It is hard not to be cynical whenever you read or hear anything in the media. Is this sincere, these amazing words LeBron has written? Is he really the author at all? I do not know, and at some level it is none of my business to judge. What I know is his words are amazing. It certainly seems like he gets it. He says his return home is about something bigger than basketball. He is humble and admits to making mistakes. He is forgiving and merciful (and the owner who had a public temper tantrum and said awful things about LeBron probably needs to make his own public apologies). I was truly impressed by the maturity he exhibits and the openness of his heart. I was more impressed by what appears to be a commitment to make a difference for the kids of Ohio. His reference to it being a place where "no one gives it to you, you have to earn it" rings true for me (and my mid-west upbringing and value system). As many have noted, the horrible way he made his last decision (to go to Miami) had marred his image. I certainly found myself cheering against him. (Once again, an reaction to someone I do not know) Now, it appears, he is going to be a hero. A real hero, dedicated and humble, trying to bring glory to his native land and benefit others especially youth.I hope he is as good a man as it appears in the letter he wrote explaining his decision. I really do wish him well. (Though I have to pull for the Memphis Grizzlies)

But this is not why I say he is like Jesus. He is like Jesus in a parabolic, allegorical sort of way.
Some people are offended by this analogy. If you do, then please go read the parables. Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like farming, fishing and business. Jesus compares grace to manure (fertilize the tree to see if it will produce). Jesus sees the ordinary as a reflection of the supernatural. If you cannot see echoes of the Kingdom everywhere then you do not understand Jesus. Eyes and heart open to God means that you do not limit your faith to "religion." Jesus, a man at home with tax collectors and prostitutes, calls us all to a bigger heart and a wider vision.

Cleveland is a basketball wasteland. They have not been good for a long time. In fact, all their professional sports teams have been pretty unsuccessful. The economy has been tough on Northern Ohio as well. It is a place in need of good news.[obviously, as a Christian, I believe Jesus, the real Jesus, is what they need for salvation. That said, I am speaking on a human level] LeBron is called "the King" (Christ/Messiah literally means the annointed, or King) so when LeBron left it is a type of Jesus. The King is gone. When he/He left, the ones left behind are bereaved. "Who will help us now?" For four years Cleveland has played poorly while Miami, LeBron's new home, experienced success (including 2 titles). Now, suddenly, the impossible has happened. Cleveland is suddenly relevant again. There is hope for success. Maybe even the elusive championship.THAT is the kingdom analogy. LeBron is like Jesus in that his presence breaths hope into the team. It is a parable. It is a simile. It is allegorical.

What will happen? I do not know, but it seems sure that some "eschatological reversal" is taking place. To quote the Magnificat. "The mighty have been pulled down and he has raised up the lowly." Last week Miami was a power and Cleveland at the back of the pack. Today, it is all different.

Don't be confused. It is all an analogy. It is a parable. The Kingdom of God is NOT basketball. LeBron is not Jesus. But, then, the Kingdom is not a farm, or a woman making bread, or a businessman either. It is "like" that. And the better we are at seeing the 'like' in the world around us the closer we will get to the Kingdom.

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