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Written by Jake Hannon

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. - Ephesians 2:13

Would you agree that most coaches we play for, or coach with, care more about the performance than the relationship? Out of all the coaches I have played for, I can count on one hand the number of coaches that actually cared about having a relationship with me and were willing to put my needs before their needs. Sometimes we are so ingrained with relating to authority figures through our performance, it can be difficult for us to realize that God does not operate that way.

To all coaches out there – even though it may not feel like it, you are making a huge difference by the way you care about your players and you are spreading the truth of the gospel in so many ways.

See here’s the thing. Real relationships involve emotions and pain. Humans have souls. Souls contain thoughts, emotions and affections. Souls can be hurt. Souls can bleed (figuratively speaking). Any relationship that humans have is going to have some amount of pain and bloodshed.

Take robots, for instance. Robot relationships involve tasks and obedience. Robots do not have souls. Robots cannot feel pain (despite what types of human nature the movies may attribute to them). Robot relationships require no blood to maintain because robots cannot be hurt.

Because we know that we are far from God’s perfection, it is very easy for us to want to relate to God as robots. We believe that God is both displeased and hurt by our wrongdoing. We don’t want Him to bleed on account of our incompetence. We don’t want to anger Him. In hockey terms, we don’t want Him to yell at us when we come back to the bench! Furthermore, we aren’t sure of when we are hurting Him and when we are not hurting Him. So, in an effort to control our own destiny and our own standing before God, we seek to relate to Him through our performance and through our obedience. We feel that if we can just do a good job for Him He will be happy with us and we will have fellowship with Him.

God’s design for mankind has never been for us to relate to Him as robots. His design has always been that we would relate to Him through relationship.

Obedience is a great thing but it is not the highest calling we have. The Bible is clear that our highest calling is to believe what Jesus has done for us. In John 6, the Pharisees and religious Jews asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the work of God?” Jesus replied: “the work of God is this – to believe in the One he has sent”. Crazy as it may sound, I believe God gave the 10 Commandments to His people because they could not fathom the type of relationship He wanted to have with them. They just wanted to have some rules to live by so they could be at peace when they did a good job.

We see the culmination of valiant yet misguided God-pleasing at the time of Jesus. The Pharisees had created a system of 613 laws (adding 603 to the original 10 commandments over a few thousand years) with which they governed Jewish life. When Jesus came to earth he spent most of his time rebuking their distortion of the purpose of God’s commandments. Many of these Pharisees thought that they had fulfilled all of the laws to perfection. Take, for instance, the rich young ruler who said that he had been perfect since the day he was born. Jesus gently rebukes him with a call to give away all his money – proving that our relationship to God is not defined by external adherence to regulations but rather about the receptiveness of our hearts to treasuring Christ above all else.  (see Mark 10:17-27)

Here is the great news. We don’t have to relate to God as obedient robots. We can relate to God through real relationship. Hundreds of years before God gave the 10 Commandments to the nation of Israel God had real relationships with His people. In Eden, Adam and Eve had perfect communion with God. The relationship was tarnished by Adam and Eve’s sin. However, God clearly had favor and relationship with many heroes of the faith between the time of Eden and the giving of the 10 Commandments in Exodus (see Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Job).

Okay, so God wants to relate to us through relationship. Well, now we have a bigger problem. How are we supposed to keep up our end of the relationship? Let’s not kid ourselves, we’re pretty much doomed. If we can’t even keep up relationships with our husbands, wives, children, family and friends, how could we ever keep up a relationship with a perfect God? As we know, in relationships, someone has to pay a price to keep the peace. Someone has to endure pain to keep intimacy high. If a relationship suffers too much pain, it runs the risk of becoming robotic. The pain we experience causes us to remove ourselves from anything emotional to protect our hearts from further pain. A relationship that was once near can very quickly become very far. Two people can be having lunch one minute and not wanting to talk to each other the next. So how can our relationship with God be sustained without our performance and without robotic rules? Good news, God has a bigger solution for our bigger problem!

Jesus. Jesus has spilled the blood and has endured all of the pain that is required to keep our relationship with him and with His Father. There is literally nothing we can do to cause him to turn our relationship robotic again. Jesus had perfect communion with the Father. And now, through his death, we have been included in Jesus’ communion with the Father. When we think about God’s view towards us we can envision the cross. Colossians says that Jesus is the “visible image” of the invisible Father. Jesus was not tripping over our sin. Instead, he just took care of the problem Himself by getting on a cross and dying for it. We can think of God in the same way.

The verse we are studying in Ephesians 2:13 says that we have been “brought near” by the blood of Jesus Christ. That means that the chasm of separation between us and God no longer exists. We are free to relate to God through relationship. There is a one-way love that flows from God to us. God knows that we will continue to make mistakes and fall short, but He is not waiting for us at the bench to yell at us when we have a bad shift. He wants to relate to us by the blood of Jesus. What we do on the ice and in our lives always takes a backseat to God’s main priority – that we would understand and be full of rest in the fact that we are living in an eternal state of nearness to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Discussion Questions

  1. When are some instances you have felt that God was mad at you?
  2. Do you think that God has wrath towards you?
  3. What are some coaches that have made a difference in your life by being humble and positive?

Additional Reading

  1. Ephesians 3:10
  2. Romans 6:14
  3. Romans 7:1-6

About the Author

Jake is a 2013 graduate of Liberty University and played one season with the Flames. Before attending Liberty in 2011 for his last season of college eligibility, Jake spent two years playing for NCAA Division III Amherst College and one year playing for NCAA Division I Army. The former defenseman has four years of Junior Hockey experience before college as well, having spent time in the USHL, EJHL, NAHL, and CJHL at various points in his career. After college, Jake spent one year as the Liberty Hockey Team Chaplain before being offered the position of Assistant Coach for the team. After two years of coaching the Flames, Jake was called into full time ministry in Buffalo, NY. Jake now lives in Buffalo and serves as the Erie County Area Representative for FCA. Jake is married to Rebecca and the couple has three children – Grace (2), Daniel (1), and Gabby (5 months).

4 comments (Add your own)

1. Josi Hershey wrote:
We sat and read this to the boys as a family before they went to bed. All three of our boys play hockey for the Lancaster Firebirds. They are 14,12 and 9. We look so forward to the Penalty kill. Thanks Jake for sharing, the very last couple sentences you wrote that are in bold black, I might just put them on something for the boys to read daily.

Thu, October 13, 2016 @ 9:27 PM

2. Josi Hershey wrote:
We sat and read this to the boys as a family before they went to bed. All three of our boys play hockey for the Lancaster Firebirds. They are 14,12 and 9. We look so forward to the Penalty kill. Thanks Jake for sharing, the very last couple sentences you wrote that are in bold black, I might just put them on something for the boys to read daily.

Thu, October 13, 2016 @ 9:28 PM

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