Alright, I must confess. I grew up a HUGE fan of Michael Jordan. Huge! (Like Mike. If I could be like Mike. I want, I want, I want to be like Mike!) Remember the song? I remember just how amazed I was over Michael Jordan's incredible dominance on the court. I remember watching as John Paxson would nail a clutch three. I remember Dennis Rodman's crazy hair color changes, along with his dominant rebounding. I remember Scottie Pippen's dependability, even though his talents were underutilized at times. Most of all, though, I remember MJ! I remember gatorade ads. Nike ads. Wheatie ads.
Now, I knew that I was just a small-town, athletically challenged white boy, but that didn't stop me from pretending that I was MJ taking the game winning shot in the backyard every now and again. It was inspiring.
As we grow older and enter different periods of our lives, it is normal for us to draw inspiration from those who seem larger than life. The celebrity. The attention. The fame. The ability. The determination.
As Michael Jordan was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past Friday night, I had high hopes as I awaited his speech. Was it going to be a tear-jerker? Would he graciously accept the honor? And for a moment, I was back in the backyard learning to emulate Jordan's crossover move.
But, then the speech began. It started with a few tears. But soon, a few mild-mannered acknowledgments and an inappropriate profanity later, I quickly realized that although this man was super talented in basketball, he was never worthy of my emulation or aim. For a man to have had four other men on the court that helped him win multiple, multiple championships, not much credit was given. Sure a mention was given. Here and there. But as the camera scanned the crowd, it focused on some of Jordan's teammates--who seemed somewhat muffled in their applause.
For a man who played a team sport, not much gratitude was given to the team. In fact, more than anything, MJ boasted of his abilities and his determination to be the very best. But, the athletically limited youngster inside of me was hoping that more acknowledgement would be given to that clutch three-point shooter, that solid rebounder, and the consistent, dependable comrade on the court.
When the speech was over, I began to think about what kind of people we should seek to emulate in life. Immediately, I thought of Jesus. I thought of Him alone. Then I thought of his attitude toward recognition. Then I remembered the words of Paul written to the Philippian church, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness...he humbled himself." (Philippians 2:5-8) I was reminded that we live in a world of self-exaltation. We are a prideful people. And for the few who really excel, awards and recognition can be a fuel of temptation to flame our egos. Yet, believers are called to a higher standard. Even in the midst of recognition, we are called to consider others better than ourselves. We are called to humble ourselves. We are called to be like Christ Jesus.
We should be very careful where and who we draw our inspirations from in this world. Acknowledging athletic accomplishments, academic excellences, and job achievements are all wonderful opportunities to show appreciation to those who have earned them. Yet, we must be careful when looking up to these figures. We must esteem those who receive such honors with extreme selection. The manner in which these honors are received are more telling of an individual's character than the success that led to the recognition itself.
And although we are encouraged, inspired, and challenged by such people for their accomplishments, they should never become our aim. They should never become our model. They should never become our ambition. Rather, we should, "fix our eyes upon Jesus...so that you will not grow weary and loose heart." (Hebrews 12:3)
It was a wonderful thing for me (and others like me) to be inspired by the amazing feats that Jordan accomplished on the court. As I grow in my walk with the Lord, however, it becomes increasingly clear that Jesus Christ is the only one deserving of my heart's aim. And instead of a commercial song encouraging me to "be like Mike", I can truly say, with all of my heart, that I want, I want, I want to be like Jesus! Corny, but true.
Let us make our aim in life the person of Jesus Christ. Let us fix our eyes upon Him alone. Amen.