“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.”
– Proverbs 15:13 (ESV)

I had a conversation with a parent recently in which she told a story of a coach who was screaming at her son’s baseball team after a loss. She couldn’t believe how the coach was treating the boys. He was loud, demeaning and even a little scary as she told it. At one point the coach shouted, “You’re not here to have fun! You’re here to work!. The coach obviously thought that the boys weren’t trying hard enough, weren’t fully engaged, and didn’t want to win as badly as he did. The mom told me that the worse the boys played, the more frustrated the coach got. She concluded her story by telling me her son and his teammates were only 8-years old! Then she asked me this question, “When do children shift from having fun to being competitive?” The answer came quickly and without hesitation, “They don’t, they can be both and they should be!” If sports aren’t fun, children quit and if they quit, we lose the opportunity to influence their lives for years to come. We miss the chance to change a life forever.

As followers of Jesus, sometimes we can be guilty of doing the same thing this misguided coach did. We love Jesus just as passionately as that coach loves baseball. It’s hard for us to understand why someone wouldn’t want the life-changing gift of salvation that Jesus offers. Sometimes we can push too hard and too fast to help non-believers see what we see. We might be tempted to say, “Well you’re not trying hard enough!” Without really recognizing it, we can become frustrated with non-believers because of their live-for-today attitude and I’ll think about it mindset. Sometimes we forget that everyone is not going to be where we would like for them to be spiritually. Maybe in our single-mindedness, we’ve been more concerned with saving them than loving them. When a child is having fun on the baseball field he will compete with everything he has. Maybe the unsaved would be more attentive to the Good News if they knew we simply loved them first. In our zealousness, lets not lose the opportunity to love them until God is ready to save them. It’s all in His hands anyway.

Heavenly Lord, help me to love today before I preach. May my words lift others up and not tear them down. Amen.