Each week in the month of June we will be featuring an article on Biblical Fatherhood. To see the full series, click HERE.
by Todd Gerelds, author of Always Fall Forward
I recently had an opportunity to speak to a group of third- and fourth-year dental students during a lunchtime ministry meeting at the University of Alabama School of Dentistry in Birmingham, Alabama. As I spoke to this group of future dentists, mostly aged in the twenty-four- to twenty-six-year-old range, I asked them a question. “By a show of hands, how many of you would say that the world has changed a lot since you were in elementary school?” Every hand in the room went up. There was a noticeable murmur among the students as they thought about how different the world was fifteen to twenty years ago.
For many of us who’ve been around much longer than these students, the changes since our childhood can make our heads spin. When I was a child, we opened each school day, in a public school, with the Pledge of Allegiance, a patriotic song called, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee (America),” a reading from the Bible, and prayer. In one generation our country has changed dramatically. The same laws that originally were drafted to protect religious liberties were somehow used to outlaw prayer in school in a 1962 Supreme Court ruling. Still, many people held on and tried to maintain some of the Christ-centered traditions at the local level. Over the course of a few years, these acknowledgments of our Creator have been decreasing more and more in the public realm.
Over five hundred years before Jesus walked the earth along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, a Jewish prophet penned the following:
What sorrow for those who say
that evil is good and good is evil,
that dark is light and light is dark,
that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes
and think themselves so clever. (Is. 5:20-21)
During the early first century, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Roman church. In the first chapter of that letter, he described people who thought themselves to be wise, came up with their own laws, and disregarded the truth of what God had made clear to mankind. He went on to describe the behaviors of those who created their own sense of morality, as opposed to God’s standards.
As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. . . . Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. (Rom. 1:21-22, 28-31)
It is not a stretch to say that we have arrived at a time in history similar to the society Paul described in his letter to the Roman Christians. Yet, as followers of Christ, we are called to engage with our culture, not hide from it. In Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, He tells us that we are to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” He instructs His followers to bring flavor, or taste, to an increasingly tasteless world. He also notes that the world is a dark place and needs light. He uses the imagery of a city on a hilltop as it can be seen from miles around, much like a lighthouse.
People need light to keep from being disoriented. We are called to bring the light of truth to a world lost in the darkness of lies. Still, how can we go about being salt and light in a way that engages our culture?
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul speaks about “becoming all things to all men.” In essence, he wants to relate to people as well as he can out of love for them.
“Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” (verse 22)
Additionally, Peter writes to fellow believers in 1 Peter 3:15 that we should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, yet with gentleness and respect. Here is the key to standing for what we believe during this day and age when standing for truth has somehow become “narrow-minded” or “bigoted.” Paul and Peter give us clear guidance to help us obey Jesus’ call to be salt and light to those around us. These two apostles’ words were motivated, not by a desire to be right, but by love. These two men loved Jesus and they loved other people. They didn’t let the opinions of those around them deter them. They spoke the truth in love.
Today’s culture belittles Christians as anti-intellectual in one moment and ridicules us as “haters,” the next. We must meet these claims with loving truth just as Peter and Paul did in the first century. Our world is dark. It needs the Light. Our world is tasteless. It needs salt. Jesus is calling us to this great mission, to be the light and to be the salt.
As we interact with the world around us, let us follow Paul’s lead. We’ve got to find common ground so we have opportunity to share the truth. And, as Peter instructed, we should always be ready to share the truth about the source of our hope, yet with gentleness and respect.
This same Peter cut off a man’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. It would be very difficult for a man with no ears to hear the truth. I believe Peter learned that gentleness and respect gave him a better opportunity to share truth than cutting off people’s ears. Peter finishes his command to always be ready with these words:
Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. (1 Peter 3:16)
And, Jesus finishes his discussion of our being light in this way:
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:16)
Let us ask our Father to enable us to live our faith through deeds—deeds that prove our words and point glory to God.
Always Fall Forward by Todd Gerelds
“Make your mistakes full speed.” “Always fall forward.” “There are worse things than dying.”
Todd Gerelds, author of the bestselling book and hit movie Woodlawn, believes the most meaningful life lessons he has learned have been on the playing field. The voice of his coach rings in his head when life gets tough or when his day becomes off-kilter. It just happens that his coach’s voice is also his father’s. His dad was Tandy “The Coach” Gerelds, the subject of Woodlawn and the man who led his team to victory in the racially charged atmosphere of 1970s Alabama. The Coach led his team both on and off the field, always speaking wisdom wherever he went. For him, leading his team wasn’t a responsibility he took lightly. After all, the Coach wasn’t just training these boys to be good football players—he was helping them build the foundation to becoming good men.
In Always Fall Forward, join the Coach’s son, Todd Gerelds, as he reflects on fifty-two of his dad’s most formative “coachisms.” From “Your stance is critical” to “One play at a time,” you, too, will start hearing the strong and encouraging voice of the Coach when life hits you hard. Packed with life application, Always Fall Forward challenges men each week to live the way the Coach lived—grounded in faith and willing to stand up for what he believed—no matter the cost.
You won’t want to forget these lessons—both on and off the field.