L-E-O

L-E-O

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

IMG_1922

Neal Pollard

I am a lifelong fan of the SEC (Southeastern Conference), as a diehard, if long-suffering, Georgia Bulldog. In fact, I was born in Oxford, Mississippi, home to the Ole Miss Rebels football team that took on and beat the Indiana Hoosiers on January 2 at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. But, I could not help but love the charisma and philosophy of Indiana’s head football coach, Tom Allen. They had a remarkable season, giving Ohio State all it could handle in the Big Ten Championship game. They are up-and-comers. They are over-comers. A big reason why is Allen’s motto. It has helped them deal with internal tragedy and loss. It has brought them together in a year that tore so many people apart, politically, racially, and philosophically. The motto is simply “L-E-O”: Love Each Other. He preaches to his players to live for something larger than themselves. He explained, “…You have to live your life with core values and core principles. There are anchors in your life. This is what we talk about all the time, that when these storms come — not if they come, when they come — you have a rock-solid foundation that cannot be shaken” (Jon Blau, Bloomington, IN, Star-Times, 1/3/21). He sees his opportunity as head coach as about much more than wins and losses, but about shaping young men at a crucial time in their lives. And what they need to succeed, he’s convinced, is “brotherly love.”

As fantastic as that, promoted by a man of faith like Allen, he’s simply echoing the motto Jesus already gave His disciples 2,000 years ago. John records Jesus’ admonition to His followers, when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). OK, technically, that’s L-O-A, but, when we remind each other, it’s L-E-O. More than a motto, it is our identifying mark. Jesus knew the power of selfless, sacrificial love. Love, defined as “the quality of warm regard for and interest in another” (BDAG, 6), helps us through the storms of life. It gives us something bigger than ourselves to lean on. 

New Testament writers tell us what L-O-A will do:

  • It causes us to serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
  • It roots and grounds us (Eph. 3:17)
  • It helps us show tolerance for one another (Eph. 4:2)
  • It makes us spiritual laborers (1 Th. 1:3)
  • It leads us to highly esteem one another (1 Th. 5:13)
  • It shows us as proper examples of a believer in Christ (1 Tim. 4:12)
  • It will cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8)

Of course, the list is much longer than that, but think about the impact we can make on the world, especially right now, if we will work to master such a motto in the body of God’s Son. Love each other! Don’t divide into camps, suspect, prejudge, accuse, isolate from, and indict each other. That’s the world’s modus operandi (M.O.). We do that, and we have nothing to offer them that they do not already have. Offer them love, and you help fill a crucial void. God’s nature is love (1 John 4:8). It’s to be our nature, too! Let’s love each other. A desperate world is waiting. 

SEARCHING FOR THAT SLIPPERY SERENITY

SEARCHING FOR THAT SLIPPERY SERENITY

Neal Pollard

It was painful to watch my Georgia Bulldogs pulverized by the Auburn Tigers (my fellow Bronco fans can easily relate this year). Yet, later that Saturday evening, I found myself smiling and even cheering for a familiar face who was calmly embracing a signature win against college football’s number three team, Notre Dame. Level-headed. Even-keel. Happy. None of those words quite captured the way I wanted to describe Miami’s head coach, Mark Richt (former general of my beloved Dawgs). It was Dan Walken (USA Today, 11/13/17, 1C,6C) who found the one I was searching my mind for: “serene.” He is peaceful, placid, poised, and phlegmatic. But, as Walken points out, it’s not because the Hurricanes have ascended to number two in the Coaches and Press polls. He has been that all along, even the day he was fired at Georgia (his .740 winning percentage, 145-51, is the highest in college history for any coach ever to be fired). He was criticized for not being able to win the big game—which he still hasn’t. Second to that, the fan base was agitated that he was too concerned about his off-season mission work. There’s such an interesting story about how Richt came to faith, and how deeply his faith drives his life. Walken’s article mentions nothing of that, but few people who know about Richt fail to know how profoundly religion effects his life. It is, unquestionably, what drives his come-what-may serenity.

What characteristic best describes me? I know several I’d like for it to be, but, ultimately, I don’t get to describe myself. The people who know me or know about me get to do that. While the word “serene” is not found in most English translations, it is a biblical concept. 91 times, the New Testament uses a word (εἰρήνη—eirene) that is usually translated “peace.” Luke 11:21 has “undisturbed” (NASB). It can describe harmony between governments or in personal relationships, but it also describes a state of well-being within. In fact, that’s usually the way New Testament writers use it. Jesus says He offers a peace superior to what the world can give (John 14:27). A mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Rom. 8:6). The God of hope can fill you with peace in believing (Rom. 15:13). This peace passes all comprehension and guards your heart and mind (Phil. 4:7). It can rule your heart (Col. 3:15). It can be yours in every circumstance (2 Thes. 3:16). Repeatedly, Scripture promises peace to the disciple of Christ.

But our world continually scrambles to find it, much less maintain it. It seeks to achieve peace through alcohol and drugs, firearms, money and things, achievement and success, and other earthly things to plug that void. If at our core we do not fill ourselves with the peace of God, we will find ourselves futilely searching and never finding tranquility and undisturbed calm. Richt was able to smile and be joyful at the press conference that centered around his dismissal. You and I can embrace joy and steadiness in the darkest, most painful, moments of life. We never want false hope or empty peace. But a life directed and submissive to the pure, unadulterated Word and will of God leads to unshakable peace. No matter what comes our way!

Would people say I am serene? What about you?

mark_richt_university_of_miami