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Lead an Active Not Passive Life

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Baseball player Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in the major leagues. In his autobiography, I Never Had It Made, he tells a story of how it felt to break baseball’s color barrier.

In every stadium Robinson played, there were jeering crowds. One afternoon while playing in his home stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson committed another error—this time bobbling an easy grounder that would’ve gotten his team out of the inning. The white fans began to ridicule him, without mercy. He stood at second base humiliated listening to the fans jeering at him, shouting every racial slur imaginable. Self-doubt crept over him as he stood there. He wondered if he had what it took to survive as the first black man to play in the Big Leagues.

Then something remarkable happened. Shortstop Pee Wee Reese, who was white, came over and stood next to him. Silently without saying a word, he put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd, daring them to heap this abuse on him, instead of on his teammate. Gradually a hush came over the stadium, and the fans grew quiet.

Later, Robinson said “that arm” of Pee Wee Reese around his shoulder saved his career.

In John 14:16-20, Jesus says something astonishing to those who have followed him. As a result of his death, something wonderful will happen to them in life. As Jesus is reunited with God, he promises he will ask the Creator to send an Advocate or Paraclete. This Greek word describes the Holy Spirit who will come to us, and its definition is precise: “the one who is summoned to one’s aid, the one who pleads for another person’s cause before a judge, the one who is a helper.” Do I dare say that Pee Wee Reese was Jackie Robinson’s “paraclete” that day? Reese was the one who came to aid him, to plead his case before these ignorant fans, the one who helped him most when his career needed saving. Pee Wee Reese became what Jackie Robinson needed most in that moment.

“On that day when the Paraclete comes,” Jesus says, “You will know that I am in God and you in me, and I in you.” God is not simply a spectator in our lives, but actively living in us, as we participate with the divine. Knowing that should encourage us to live out the Kingdom of God in all of our daily activities. May each of us become a “paraclete” for the Jackie Robinson’s in our lives—just like Pee Wee Reese. As followers of Jesus Christ may we become what our world needs most in the moment, knowing that the activity of life—and God’s kingdom—happens because of our active life in Christ and Christ’s active life in God and in us.

Learn more about Jackie Robinson at MLB.com and JackieRobinson.org.

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