A Jealous God

Excerpt from Gods at War discusses your commitment to God.

Michael Jordan’s book Driven from Within tells an eye-opening story about a visit the legendary basketball player made to a friend’s home. Fred Whitfield was the president and chief operating officer of another NBA team. The two of them were getting ready to go out to dinner when Jordan said, “Man, it’s kind of cold. Can I borrow one of your jackets?”

Whitfield said, “Sure,” and told him where the coat closet was.

Jordan disappeared down the hall, and the house fell silent for a moment. Then the star reappeared, carrying an armful of branded athletic jackets, shirts, shoes, and other gear. He dumpedn the whole pile on the floor and disappeared down the hall again for more.

Whitfield looked at the heap and noted that all the items were made by Puma, a rival of Nike. Jordan had found that the closet had materials made by both manufacturers, and Jordan, so associated in the public mind with the Nike swoosh, did not approve. The Nike items were there because Whitfield was a close friend of Michael Jordan. The Puma stuff had come as the result of his close friendship with Ralph Sampson, an ex-player who promoted that brand.

Whitfield stood and waited to see the fate of his Puma gear. Jordan walked into the kitchen, came out with a butcher knife, and cut the pile of gear on the floor into thousands of pieces.

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When he had thoroughly destroyed the athletic gear, he gathered it all up again and carried it to a dumpster for disposal.

When he was done, Jordan returned to Whitfield’s side and said, “Hey, dude, call [my Nike representative] tomorrow and tell him to replace all of this. But don’t ever let me see you again in anything other than Nike. You can’t ride the fence.”

Jordan’s behavior is a little uncomfortable to read about, isn’t it? I find that people who follow Christ, people who read books like this one, are polite people. I can’t imagine myself pulling a Michael Jordan in someone’s house, nor would I recommend it to those who wish to keep their friends.

But don’t you think Jordan offers us a pretty good picture of idol smashing? He is demonstrating total commitment. And really that’s the kind of radical commitment God longs for from his people. He doesn’t want us to just make room in our closet for him; he wants the closet to himself.

Already we detect a problem. What has come to be called the “Greatest Generation” — the one that fought the Second World War and built mid-century America — is a generation known for commitment. Many of us had grandparents or perhaps great-grandparents who worked one job, lived in one home, and attended one church for the duration of their adulthood. People were committed to companies, communities, congregations, and their families.

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