19 "For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."
John 17:19 (NIV)
We got fancy dishware as a wedding gift. We set it aside for special use. The Bible says we have been sanctified, which means “to be set apart for sacred use or made holy.”
Athlete, you are like that dishware. You do not have to try to become special or set yourself apart today. God already did that.
But being set apart does not mean you withdraw from your university, team, neighborhood and society. If Jesus wanted to take us out of the world He would. Jesus and the Holy Spirit coming to Earth is God’s opinion that goodness should inhabit it.
God wants us here because we flavor Earth. St. Teresa of Avila wrote, "Christ has no body now on earth but yours … Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world." We are “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) We are new creatures smuggling new creation into a fallen world. God is already reversing the curse.
Athlete, maybe you are either too separated from those around you or not separated enough. It’s hard to find the balance. God wants you in the messiness around you and also wants you to be His.
It’s Jesus’ desire for you to be “in the world, but not of it,” which means you sometimes need to take exception to the givens of society. There is a time to “rebel against the culture,” as hip-hop artist Lecrae says. There is also a time to “become all things to all people,” as Paul wrote.
Athlete, live set apart and deeply embedded in God’s world. Do not be so separated that your light cannot be seen. Your light is meant to give light to “everyone in the house” so they can see. (Matthew 5:15)
Do not be so smug to ignore those who need light. That’s more pharisaical than Christlike. Jesus hung around those who were considered unclean and impure in His culture – the “sinners” and “ungodly.” Be in the world.
Oh, and athlete, “do not copy the behavior and customs of this world.” (Romans 12:2) Be not of the world.
How we dovetail the two paradoxical-seeming teachings is a lifelong journey. Think of someone whom you know who strikes that balance and emulate him or her. Jesus comes to mind.
Athlete, your fingerprints are all over campus, literally. You are on the field, in the locker room and in the dorm. Are you living “set apart” enough? Are you in the “midst of messiness” enough?