There is a parable in the book of Luke that I love. It’s about The Lost Sheep. In Luke 15:3 Jesus says that if a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, that he will search for the one until he finds it. And when he does, he will joyfully carry it home. Have you ever seen a friend or teammate stray away from God or from good things? What is your initial reaction? Is it, “well it’s her decision...or her fault.” “Shame on her, how embarrassing” Or do you feel the need to chase them down and bring them back? It could be paralleled with a bad performance. Do you build your teammates up, or let them sulk and be upset with them over a bad performance?
Jesus illustrates even further by telling a story about a son who wanted his inheritance from his father. The father then divided all his money between his three sons. The youngest son went away to party it up and live this fun and crazy lifestyle until a point when his money ran out and a huge famine swept the land. He was desperate, ashamed, and had truly messed up. The bible says, (Luke 15:27) when he was still a LONG way off from home, his father saw him coming, filled with love and compassion, the father ran to him and embraced him. Jesus continued this story by saying, the father was overcome with joy and prompted everyone to start preparing a feast, a celebration. He says, “for my son was lost, but now he is found, he was dead and now he has come back to me”.
The Father did not judge his son for his mistakes, but ran to him with open arms and an accepting heart. What would our lives look like if we sought people out with love and understanding, not judgment and criticism? What would our relationships with our teammates look like if we didn’t judge them for their performance on the field?
In John, chapter 3, it says we WILL sin. We will ALL mess up. We will ALL fall short. We will ALL wrongly judge someone, or hurt someone’s feelings, or act out of anger or jealousy. But if we believe in HIM, we’ll still receive eternal life. We’ve been accepted by Christ already. Why do we judge other people so harshly when God himself has forgiven them?
When I was younger, I was once the person that was judged and rejected. I had felt so low, lost, and loveless. I remember feeling judged and ashamed of my mistakes, and like no one understood me and my struggle. I can see now that all I really needed was love and acceptance. I not only needed more love from the people around me, but I needed to feel the love of Christ. Later, when I was in college, there was someone in my life that I didn’t fully accept for who they were. I didn’t give them enough grace to make mistakes, and I definitely pushed them away when they were at their lowest. I did the exact thing that had been done to me. Looking back now, I pushed that person away until they were out of my life.
No one is ever too far gone that love and forgiveness won’t reach them eventually.
It’s almost like we have made Jesus’ love exclusive. We’ve put limits on his limitless love. We’ve turned Jesus Christ into Santa Claus with a naughty and nice list. Look out, better be good to get onto the Heaven list! What if God never intended for this? I feel like Jesus might have felt out of place in today’s Christian space because of how judgmental and critical we are of one another.
I pray that we would give our friends and teammates grace without bounds. Accept without hesitation. And love intentionally, wholeheartedly, and with no prerequisites. People need to be loved. They need to be accepted. They need other people… even if they don’t act like they do. Ultimately, they need us to start opening our arms the way our Father did for us.
My name is Caroline Stanley and I am a professional goalkeeper in the National Women’s Soccer League. I grew up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. I played collegiately at the University of Missouri shortly before transferring to the University of Southern California. I was then picked up in the Discovery draft by the Seattle Reign FC in the NWSL. I started the next year for Sky Blue FC out of New Jersey and this last year I played down in Florida with the Orlando Pride! I am now in off-season and fill up most of my time traveling, coaching, and doing freelance writing and broadcasting! I am so excited to be involved with the FAM and look forward to getting to know all of y’all!