And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
Kobe Bryant’s tragic death Sunday didn’t solely generate sadness in the NBA, sports, black, young or even just American communities – it resonated throughout all of the world. Even young guys on the PGA Tour shared what Kobe’s “Mamba mentality” meant to them in both their lives and career. Golf Digest published an article on Kobe Bryant a few months before he announced his intention to retire after the 2016 season. The respected golf writer Alex Myers detailed Kobe’s great potential in golf because of his physical attributes and a predictive need for something to do as the end of basketball career seemed inevitably soon.
We automatically assume sports stars need a competitive fix following retirement. Golf is many times that outlet because it doesn’t require a great deal of youthful ability, yet it is difficult enough to intrigue a world class athlete. Kobe rarely played golf and there are very few images showing him swinging a club. Michael Jordan loves the game and is quite good so it was natural to assume Kobe would follow his footsteps on the links. One could safely assume golf was never a passionate pursuit of Kobe Bryant because he would have already thrived.
Many of us who follow Kobe soon found out his post-retirement calling was first and foremost to be a father to his daughters and a husband to his wife. Other people in Orange County testify to his regular attendance at the local Catholic Church. He was not interested in being the person that the world thought he should be in retirement. He didn’t have the desire to own a sports team like Micheal Jordan or get into professional coaching like many of his rivals. Further, he never gave his public opinion on politics or even current societal problems. He knew who he was and lived his life in that fashion. Tragedy makes each of us think about our own relationships. We are different things to different people and God puts us there to achieve that purpose. We will either be witnesses for salvation or witnesses in judgment.
Jesus knew who he was from the beginning and his mission was not compromised by who the world wanted or thought him to be. In the often-quoted scripture above, Jesus asked His disciples “whom say the people that I am?” The answer wasn’t going to change who He was, but He wanted the disciples to make their declaration known for their own sake. They told him that the world saw Him as “John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.” When posed with the more pointed question, “but whom say ye that I am?”, Peter answered “The Christ of God.” These perspectives were all founded from relationships and perspectives.
We are all tasked with individually answering the question as to who Jesus is to us. Each of us has already answered it thus far into our life. Either we have accepted him as Lord and Savior or we just see him as a great man or prophet. Many of the people around us have tried to make us be something we are not from the time of our birth. Our grandparents have told us that we are better looking than others. Our parents have assured us that we are smarter than others. A few of us have had coaches to have us believe that our athletic talents define our being. However, most of these things are probably not true. The families of celebrities don’t see them as the person we watch on television. They are moms and dads, neighbors and friends. The trash guy isn’t even defined by his occupation by his family and friends.
God does not judge us by who the world tells us that we are. These attributes are neither our own personal identity nor our spiritual identity. We all have pains, indiscretions, hurts, heartbreaks, ugly spots and failures. We all have sin too which is the determining factor as to who we really are – faulty.
God’s opinion of his children isn’t the ever changing views from man or society. We are told in John 1:12-13 that “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” In Romans 3:24, the believer is described as, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” We are still faulty, but just forgiven upon our acceptance of Christ as our Savior. Let us live today true to our identity through Christ by reflecting His image to a needful hurting world.