Thursday, October 14, 2010

Underdogs

I think its probably safe to say that most of us identify as underdogs. I'll bet if you asked any number of millionaires most of them would probably admit that at some point in their life they felt disregarded. They might tell you they were poor or struggled through some hardship to get where they are today. They would probably give you some story about them triumphing over adversity or earning their success against all odds. I think we all like to cheer on the underdogs because we identify with them, we see ourselves as those who haven't been given the same advantages that others have. We all want the little guy to do well, after all it's inspirational. It gives us hope. There's a reason why this is the premise of every Disney movie ever made. 


Those of you who know a bit about me know that I grew up with constant exposure to Bible teaching. In Sunday School we learned the stories of the ancient heroes; David defeating Goliath, Moses leading the slaves out of Egypt, Gideon and his small band of men defeating a massive army. The men and women we read about seemed larger than life. However, as I got older I started to realize that these people weren't superhuman... they were just human. They were deeply flawed. They were underdogs, and the Bible doesn't hide their shortcomings, it almost highlights them. Moses murdered a man in Egypt and lived in exile in the desert for forty years before God spoke to him and told him of His plan to go back and free the slaves, and even then Moses was incapable of speaking up so God sent Aaron to be his mouthpiece. David was the youngest of his family, a simple shepherd boy with no military training. All he had was a rock and a sling, yet God used him to kill the giant and defeat the Philistine threat. David also became an adulterer and a murderer when he was King, he failed miserably but the Bible still says that David was a "man after God's own heart." These guys were just like you or me, and yet probably a lot worse, but God used them for great things. God loved them. Rahab was a prostitute and a Gentile (even worse in those days) and God used her to secure a victory for Israel. The theme that runs through all of these stories is that God tends to use those who are cast out, disenfranchised and overlooked. He tends to take those from humble situations and sends them into significant, purposeful, legendary roles. God identifies and chooses the underdogs for great things.


The Bible says that God does this so that man might see His Glory reflected in the lives of people. It's still happening too. A humble Albanian nun felt God calling her to India where she became known as Mother Theresa, lover of the sick, abandoned people in the slums of Calcutta. A black kid from segregated Georgia became Martin Luther King, Jr, leader of the Civil Rights movement. Without these people our world would be much worse, yet they weren't born with a silver spoon. They were born in probably less desirable situations then you or I.


Being a person who believes we were all created in the image of God, I can't help but see God's trait of "rooting for the underdog" reflected in our lives. The Bible says that in heaven the "last shall be first" meaning the poorest, most disenfranchised people here on earth will be like kings in heaven, especially when they suffer for God's sake (Good's sake). This serves as good motivation to humbly serve your neighbor, or to "bless those who curse you" as the Bible says. 


The "underdog theme" is strong throughout the Old Testament and New, culminating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, a child born of the humblest beginnings was a carpenter, and served the lowliest of society until He ultimately gave His life so that every person, bad or good, got the opportunity to experience Heaven. He came and served as a humble servant, and the Bible says He now reigns as the King of Heaven. He's the ultimate underdog story.


Thematically, the Bible is so perfect yet so backwards from practical thought, and so different from any other religion in that sense. But it resonates. For some strange reason we all love the underdog. We all tear up when we watch Rudy (if you don't you have no heart). Perhaps this is why the radical idea of endless servitude, rejoicing through suffering, and sacrificing everything even to the point of martyrdom struck a chord two thousand years ago. Deep down it just rings true. Those who have prestige don't see their need for Jesus so they exclude themselves, but the little guys, the sinners like you and me, the underdogs, we cling to the promise that we are forgiven and loved, and that someday we will fulfill our potential and be made complete.

17 comments:

  1. So great Matt! Love it so much!

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  2. i really liked this! very inspiring! keep writing Matt!

    Peace 'n' Love

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  4. I realize this is a (literally) parenthetical piece of the blog, but I was particularly intrigued by this statement:

    "The poorest, most disenfranchised people here on earth with be like kings in heaven, especially when they suffer for God's sake (Good's sake)."

    It seems to have interesting implications. Are you equating Good (meaning goodness) to God? If so, can there be good things which are distinct from Good? It would defy the point of the original Biblical passage if it were not possible to be a poor, disenfranchised person and yet be put first in the end times. Can such people know God and be put first simply by knowing Goodness? Is it possible to know God if one only knows him as Good? -> Is it possible for underdogs to attain salvation without knowing the person God?

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  5. Sharp as a whip as usual Marie. My point was God's sake is Good's sake and vice versa, because God is the epitome of Good. Some people do things in God's name that aren't necessarily Good, so I wanted to differentiate. Romans 8:28 and James 1:17 imply that true Goodness comes from God alone, and the two are not mutually exclusive. I think some people suffer for no reason, or false/selfish reasons. Not every reason is a Good reason.

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  6. Hmm, I was just wondering about this statement:
    This serves as good motivation to humbly serve your neighbor, or to "bless those who curse you" as the Bible says.

    You don't mean that it serves as the only motivation, right? Because...I think, it's more like, we realize how much God loves no-good, lameo sinners like us, and in response to the Love He's showered on us, we love others...our neighbors, and bless those we curse us..

    just to make sure. :)

    - Dawn

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  7. "In the end, glorification of splendid underdogs is nothing other than glorification of the splendid system that makes them so."

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  8. GazelleTrek-
    No it's not the only motivation. Your answer is textbook correct. However the idea of "storing up treasures in heaven" shouldn't be viewed as a lesser motivation. The hope of heaven is a great motivator through suffering here on earth. If it was just about payback and not about restitution, I think our response might be one-dimensional or slave-like. There's a reason why Jesus said the "last shall be first" and why Paul said to "store up your treasures in heaven," and I think that reason is motivation through suffering.

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  9. There is a book I read called Stone Tables by Orson Scott Card, and I was reminded of a line from it when reading your post.
    "If the Lord used only perfect men as his servants, he would go unserved." I think the Lord gives us the opportunity to learn, progress, fall, and get back up. It's the choices we make that really make a difference and the opportunity to serve Him by serving those around us.

    I've never considered the whole "underdog" when reading the scriptures, but you're right. It's something real that we can identify with, and what's great is that we have examples of people who made mistakes that were still cherished in the eyes of God. It's something to look to; to know I can do better.

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  10. Matt: Thank you for reminding me of that; I agree with your reasoning (biblical reasoning!); it is definitely a good reminder for me to keep an eternal perspective in life. :)

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  11. Naturally not all "good" things reflect God, but that'd be because they're not actually good. What if someone made a lifestyle of suffering selflessly for the sake of Good, but didn't know of Christ and weren't (intentionally) suffering for the sake of God? Is that possible? Would it hypothetically permit salvation?

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  13. Marié:

    You might want to check out Luke 18:18-19--
    18A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
    19"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.

    I guess the very notion that we would think that our "goodness" is enough for God is to cheapen His Grace and His sacrifice...and the wages of our sin.

    If you are leaning towards asking about those who have not heard, I think that is quite a highly-contested issue, among the Christian family itself, unfortunately. Definitely you can look at sources like reasonablefaith.org or str.org for some possible views from a Christian's standpoint.

    Romans 3:20-31 might be helpful, too.

    Hopefully I've been more of a help than a nuisance ... :)

    If you want, you can email me @ s33keverlastingtruth@gmail.com, and I could refer you to even more sources.

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  14. Well, Matt this was certainly worth the wait! I must say it is a pretty amazing read, almost sermon-like in nature and you’ve sparked quite a debate! Personally, I like the underdog equation, but since they’ve already picked it apart, there isn’t much left for me, except that there are people who live as someone before me described as suffering and doing good for the sake of good, but not necessarily for God. They are referred to as righteous people and they existed in biblical times and still exist today, but will they attain salvation without truly knowing Christ is an interesting dilemma. If we believe that Adam and Eve were the first people to roam the earth, that they knew God personally having hung out with Him in the garden, and that all the rest of us are their descendants, then it stands to reason that God put the knowledge of Himself in all His creations. It was man’s decision to walk away from God and forsake Him, so God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to rectify the situation. When we actively seek to know God through Christ, we gain salvation, therefore good works or suffering alone just doesn’t cut it. Jesus, himself, says in Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

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  15. GazelleTrek: I realize it's a highly-contested issue; those are my favorite. The reason I brought it up was because Matt seemed to imply an answer to a certain side of this argument. My questioning is more Socratic than a desire to find personal answers. But thanks for the sources! :)

    Perhaps you'd like to give some input: If God is Good and people with no knowledge of the person Christ can know Good, can they know God, and thereby, know Christ? Does anyone who loves truth/love/good/peace love God?

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  16. Love the post Matt..

    It seems like a really simple concept at first glance, everybody rooting for the underdog, and it really is true I feel like, but it makes me wonder..

    Of all the people rooting for the underdog, how many people will actually be that underdog. It's thoughts like this that make me realize how amazing Jesus actually was. It's one thing to try and push your own boundaries and attempt to become something you never thought you could, but it's an entirely different thing to make yourself that underdog. How humble of a god is this that gave up so much power and made Himself so vulnerable, only to try and change the people He rules over from the inside out; starting with their hearts. I guess that's why they call Him the King of kings, because He doesn't just want our submission to make Himself more powerful, He wants our hearts to make His creation more wonderful...
    ...just some thoughts

    p.s. www.savebluelikejazz.com everyone should donate, this movie will change the world

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  17. Dude.... you're a dude. I always wondered why I (for some reason) love your music. You are a succeeded underdog bro

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