Hope for Living: Are you a fan or a fanatic?

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When sporting events like the opening day for the Indianapolis Colts come around, extra excitement builds in many people’s lives.

These things can be harmless pastimes when appropriate interest levels exist, but what happens when a fan becomes a fanatic? What is the difference? Should we be concerned if we find ourselves in either category, or no category at all? It depends on whom or what is the object of your attention.

A fan can be a supporter or an enthusiastic admirer of a team. Fans can be quick to jump on the bandwagon when their team seems to be succeeding, or they can be a committed loyal fan who supports them through thick or thin. Fanatics can be more excessive with a single-minded zeal that can become a problem when an earthly object or pursuit becomes an idol.

Some people might have an interest in politics or an ideological movement. Being a “fan” may show that they take their duty as a citizen seriously, while a “fanatic” could become closed-minded to alternatives and compromises.

Still others may be drawn to groups based on heritage or ethnicities. It is fine to recognize and hold on to one’s roots, but not if that prevents them from blending into society.

In this country we should all be American first. We should be patriotic, but not be the type of fanatics that drive us to be divided, as we so often are these days.

Do these descriptions follow to issues of faith? In the Bible we read about the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

They were fanatics who held to strict observations of traditional and written laws. They also commonly held to visions of lofty superiority over others. They lost contact with virtues of common compassion and caring for their fellow man. The Aramaic word for Pharisee means “separated.”

Nicodemus humbled himself and sought out Jesus in John, Chapter 3, and became a follower.

Should we be fans or fanatics when it comes to Jesus?

While we can’t go wrong when we turn our attention to Jesus, we should still watch our degree of devotion and commitment. Some fans of Jesus want to get close enough to him to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires sacrifice and obedience. A fan should be devoted to Jesus.

On the other hand, some fanatics become people who can’t relate to others, or are so pushy that they just turn them away. Beware of being so heavenly-minded that you are of no earthly good. Regarding fanatics, sometimes a good rule of thumb is “everything in moderation.”

Let’s examine our priorities and our relationship and commitment to Jesus. Be more than just a cheerleader. Get out onto the field and into the game.

Whatever you do, join Team Jesus! Let Him be your coach and follow His directions. Be the hands, feet and even mouth of the Lord to the lost world around you.

Wouldn’t it be great if people cheered for Jesus more than they do for the Colts? Be the right type of radical follower Jesus wants you to be, this day and every day!

John Wakeman is pastor of Greenfield Faith Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.