The Greeks were know for their irony. And I am not sure one could have scripted a more ironic start and finish to the 2011 NFL season.
The season started with Eli Manning, quarterback for the NY Giants being put on the spot when he was asked: is Eli Manning an elite quarterback, a top 5, top 10 quarterback? Are you in the Tom Brady class? To which he answered, “I consider myself in that class”.
Most people laughed at the time. Despite a SuperBowl 42 win and some good numbers, most did not think Eli was in Brady’s class. But when you make your living as an NFL quarterback, are the number one overall pick (in what may be the best QB draft ever), the son of a former NFL quarterback, and your older brother is often considered to be the greatest QB in the game, you are used to be scrutinized. Add to that the pressure of playing in New York and calling yourself elite becomes major news.
Eli backed up his claim with 15 TDs in the 4th quarter and 6 come from behind wins to get the Giants to the playoffs. With a 7-7 record, the team rolled and notched 5 straight wins to earn a showdown with elite QB and potential classmate Tom Brady of the Patriots in SuperBowl 46.
Adding another 4th quarter game winning drive with the championship on the line, the question that started the season was reconsidered:
“This business about being an elite quarterback,” Coughlin said, “that’s come and gone. I don’t think we’ll hear much about that anymore.”
Anytime we ask who are the elite quarterbacks it generates excitement and debate from fans. Part of the fun is trying to figure out how does one rank elite quarterbacks?
Should it be wins and losses, championships, or eye popping numbers – like yards, completions, or touchdowns? Or maybe clutch performances and team leadership?
It is tough to know what factors to use and which deserve more or less weight. That is why when we look at the lists of top 10 QBS we see familiar names but often in different orders. Some will put Peyton Manning and Dan Marino at the top because of the stats despite the lack of championships. Others will go with Joe Montana because of the 4 rings and clutch performances.
What would you say if someone stuck a microphone in front of you and asked if you were an elite Christian?
And how would you know? What would you use as criteria?
What makes someone great? And should Christians even be asking that question?
Before we move forward, we need to be clear about something. I am not proposing that we should be comparing ourselves to other Christians so that we can evaluate whether we are better than they are. We may from time to time need to evaluate a person’s walk and gifting to determine if they meet qualifications for a position like deacon or pastor/elder. We may also have to evaluate the teaching ability of two pastoral candidates and determine who is greater as part of a hiring process. But those situations are different than arguing about being a better Christian than someone else for boasting purposes.
Like us, people argued over greatness in the first century. In the Bible the scribes asked which commandment is the most important (Mk 12:28) and the Pharisees liked to compare their works to others (Luke 18:9-14), and based greatness on who gave the biggest gifts, prayed the best, or fasted the longest (Matt 6:2, 5, 16).
The disciples argued about who was greater on a couple of occasions. In Mark 9 we encounter the disciples traveling with Jesus.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”
34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
I wonder what that might have sounded like:
Thaddeus: Remember when Jesus sent us out two by two. I hold the record for healing more people in a single day.
Thomas: Right but I think John healed more over the whole trip. Right John.
Bartholomew: Well who cast out the most demons?
Thomas: During one exorcism or overall?
James: Well, guys, not to brag but John, Peter, and I did get to see the transfiguration.
Peter: And don’t forget I got to walk on water!
John: But you did sink like a stone.
Peter: Well at least I got out of the boat.
Andrew: yes, but Peter I am the one that brought you to the Messiah in the first place.
This conversation is based on my “sanctified imagination”, a term used by one of the pastors I know to preface his descriptions that fill in the gaps in a Biblical narrative.
Through their example, if we are honest, we can see some of our own pride in them. The desire to be greater than those around us, to be found favorable in the eyes of those around us. This is the attitude we need to recognize and guard against.
We should want to be great Christians. But not at the expense of others. We should also desire all Christians to be great. In order to do that we need to know what a great Christian is. So we turn to Jesus who gave a few lessons on what greatness looked like.
[Continue reading through the series: part 2]