One of my favorite sports movies is “Miracle,” the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. There should have been no way that they could compete with the dominant Russian team in the 1980 Olympic Games. However, coach Herb Brooks, had a vision and went about assembling and preparing his team in some rather unorthodox ways. He brought together a team that consisted of rivals from some of the best college hockey programs in the country. In doing so, he had to work through personal vendettas, grudges, and numerous personality issues to form a unified team.
As a pivotal point in the movie, the U.S. team had just tied the Norwegian national team in an exhibition game, 3-3. Brooks noticed that the U.S. team was not giving their best effort during the game, so he made them skate sprints after the game . . . and skate . . . and skate . . . until many of them were literally sick. At the height of the scene, he said to the team, “When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.” It’s one of the great moments in sports movies.
As I was reading Paul’s exhortation to the church at Corinth, I couldn’t help but think that he was saying much the same thing. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13, emphasis added)
Our baptism as Christians gives us a new identity. It changes things. It connects us to something larger than ourselves – a new community, a new identity, a new life, a new purpose. In fact, the change is so radical that Christians have referred to this experience as being “born again.” On commentator put it this way:
“We come to water of baptism as individuals, independent and relatively self-contained. We come out of that water changed. Our identity is no longer solitary: we can no longer truly be known without reference to that community into which we have been incorporated: the body of Christ, the church. After baptism, we are more than just ourselves; we are by definition beings-in-relationship.” (Raewynne Whitely)
Maybe many of the problems that we see in the church today stem from the fact that we still have not learned this lesson. Though ONE body, we squabble over petty issues. We divide and divide and divide again, doing our human best to achieve the right theology, the right worship style, the right interpretations, the right community. Maybe we still have an important lesson to learn: The name on the front of the jersey is a whole lot more important than the one on the back.