I never played high school football. My five foot nine inch one hundred twenty pound frame would have been slaughtered by six foot two hundred pound linemen in an instant, so there was no way it ever could have happened! I did however, have friends who played football in high school, and they have always looked back on their days of playing football as fond times in their lives.
Kenny Chesney captures that fondness in the lead single “The Boys of Fall” off of his newest album “Hemmingway’s Whiskey.” Chesney himself played football at Gibbs High School outside Knoxville, Tennessee, and you can hear the definite first hand experience come through in this song. In the opening verse you can hear how being on the football team in high school is truly a privilege born from hard work, but there is an immense reward attached to it, the reward of being respected and looked up to:
“They didn't let just anybody in that club,
Took every ounce of heart and sweat and blood,
To get to wear those game day jerseys down the hall,
Kings of the school man, we're the boys of fall.”
I think sometimes among Christians we get the feeling that we are never supposed to enjoy our accomplishments because it can turn into pride, and that is a very legitimate fear. The words of Solomon in Proverbs 11:2 tell us “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (NLT) so we certainly do need to be aware of becoming too prideful and full of ourselves. However, Solomon also wrote in Ecclesiastes that, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (8:15 NIV). While some commentators view this statement from Solomon as being sarcastically aimed at an unbelieving pagan culture, others like me, view it is a serious statement for the people of God, to know it is okay to enjoy life!
Therefore I conclude that the protagonist in “Boys of Fall” should take pride in his hard work paying off by being admired as one of the star football players in high school. However, there’s more to this fine song that can apply to those of us who call ourselves Christians. Let’s check out a section of the chorus next:
“..it's knocking heads and talking trash,
It's slinging mud and dirt and grass,
It's I got your number, I got your back when your back's against the wall,
You mess with one man you got us all,
The boys of fall.”
While ‘talking trash’ certainly can often become offensive, harsh, and mean spirited; thus not God honoring, it also can be done in fun, and honestly something that will happen at sporting events both among players on opposing teams and in the stands among fans of opposing teams! The part of the chorus that stuck out to me immediately though, was the line “I got your back when your back’s against the way/You mess with one man you mess with us all.” In this line, I immediately heart the words of the Apostle Paul writing to the Church in Rome “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of His one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since ware all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5 NLT).
You see the body of Christ in some ways is like a football team! On a football team one player can’t play the game by himself. A quarterback would never be able to get a pass off if his offensive line didn’t block for him. A safety would never be able to have a chance at an interception without the defensive line putting pressure on the opposing teams quarterback. So it is with the body of Christ (the Church). We are all given different gifts by God (see 1 Corinthians 12 for more info on those) but the gifts we are given are meant for us to use collectively with the other members of the body of Christ.
Therefore, when one person in the body falls onto a hard time or is attached by the Enemy the rest of the Church must be there to defend him because in Chesney’s words ‘you mess with one man you mess with us all!” and in Paul’s words ‘we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” Thus, we as the Church need to be there for our brothers and sisters when they are in need (Romans 12:13a) because we are all united in Christ, and have the common goal of loving and reaching our culture for the Lord. One person can not accomplish such a daunting task, which is why Paul tells us that we need to work together using our gifts for God’s work because these gifts are given to us ‘as a means of helping the entire Church” (1 Corinthians 12:6b). In this way the camaraderie that we see on sports teams does a wonderful job of illustrating to us what the Body of Christ should look like to our culture!