While I was flying, I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell talk about major donations. He said that big gifts to less exclusive schools are more valuable to the community than the same gift to really exclusive schools. 100 million for an engineering school at a regional state institution, for example, has greater impact than 100 million for building Stanford’s endowment.
He referred to the difference between basketball and soccer. In basketball, one or two stars on a team can make a difference that outweighs lesser players. In soccer, however, your weak players are more important than your strong players. Because it takes so many passes to get to a goal, the weakest players give more opportunity to the other team to steal and score themselves. (Apparently, it’s developed more in The Numbers Game.)
The point, Gladwell says, is to invest in the improvement of the weaker players rather than giving so much to the already strong players.
And I started thinking about the emphasis that Jesus placed on improving weaker players. He talked about the importance of the least and the unimportance of the greatest. He identified himself with the least. He commanded caring in appropriate ways for the sick, homeless, hungry, and imprisoned. He described and modeled love as service, from washing feet to touching unclean people to conversing with outcast women and tax collectors.
He said that our love for each other, especially the weakest players on the team, is what would make us distinctive.
I’m not sure we live like we believe that. I think that we support heroes more. And already strong people. But our strength as a community formed by and around Jesus rests not in how much we create heroes as how much we love everyone, friends and enemies alike.