The explanations usually offered for this seem reasonable. You know them: the home team feels comfortable in its own "friendly environs," the away team is frazzled by travel, the home team is encouraged by homers in the stands.
But according to authors Tobias Moskowitz and L. John Wertheim, writing in their book, Scorecasting, the conventional wisdom represented by those explanations is wrong.
The reason for home field advantage, they say, is the officiating. Competent, honest referees and umpires tend to give the close calls to the home team. More often than they think, the people with the whistles are cowed by the crowd.
But let's not be too hard on referees and umpires. None of us wants to get people upset with us. (I know that I hate it.)
And frankly, people who go looking for trouble are generally narcissists. They want the world to revolve around them. This attitude springs, I believe, from the inborn default mode of every human being, what the theologians call original sin.
That doesn't mean that we should avoid offending people at all costs.
As a Christian, I follow Jesus Christ, Who I believe was and is God in the flesh. Jesus got Himself into trouble with people who weren't interested in letting God be their King and Savior. And though forcefully invited to change His way, Jesus never changed His course.
For His steadfastness, He got a cross. It's fortunate for us that this happened. Jesus' death on the cross was the way He took to resurrection on the first Easter Sunday.
Because Jesus resisted the temptations offered by the crowds and the world, keeping His face on His mission of dying and rising for us, He won new and everlasting life for all who repent and believe in Him.
What about us? We're not God. But Jesus promises that all who endure in believing in Him are the ones who will be saved from their own sin and from the death sentence every one of us deserves (Matthew 24:13).
Be warned: Belief in Christ will sometimes get you into trouble.
But when you know that you belong to an everlasting Savior and King, what the crowd says doesn't matter as much.
The apostle Paul experienced rejection because of his faith in Christ. It didn't stop him. "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18).
I can think of several good reasons for incurring the anger of others.
1. It's worth making others mad at you by standing up for the despised, neglected, or helpless.
Christians are called to stand up for the well-being of others. Psalm 82:3 says: "Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and destitute."
And Proverbs 31:8-9 says: "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."
2. It's worth making others mad at you by doing the right thing.
We're all going to endure the anger of others in our lives.
Sometimes, their anger will be justified. When we hurt others simply because of something we want to do, we deserve anger and condemnation.
But there also will be times we get people angry with us for doing the right things. Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are three people who incurred people's condemnation because what they were doing was right. So too are the countless Christians around the world trying to share the saving good news of Jesus who are thrown into prisons or executed for their allegiance to Christ.
The apostle Peter wrote to Christians in first-century Asia Minor: "For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:19-21)
3. It's worth getting others mad at you because you're sharing Christ with others.
We all know Christians who spout Bible verses and Christian cliches and think that in doing so they're witnessing. If they're really intent on sharing Christ, they'd be better off praying and studying their Bibles. Look in the New Testament to see how Jesus and His first followers invited others to faith in Jesus:
- They met people where they were
- They asked questions, including how they could help those they met
- They sought to understand the people with whom they spoke and, while never changing the content of the message about Jesus, tailored the "packages" in which they gave the gift of Jesus to them
Is it worth the hassle?
A guy about to get himself clocked in a bar fight might rebel as you drag him away from certain injury. That's OK. Taking him to safety will be its own reward.
When we Christians share Christ with others, we may have to share tough stuff with them that they don't want to hear.
- Like "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Or, "your sins [mine too] have hidden [God's] face from you."
- Or, that despite our sin and separation from God, which inevitably lead to death, God has created a way for us to be right with Him and to have eternal life with Him, a punch in the gut of human pride.
- Or, that way is Jesus: "...there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Himself human..." (1 Timothy 2:5). And, "...God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
- People may not even want to hear it when you tell them the good news that can change their lives today and in eternity: "...[I]f you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
As long as Christians live this life, we will be pushed and pulled to make the wrong calls, to have our actions and thoughts dictated by the crowd, to go along to get along. The Bible says that we are "aliens and strangers" in this world (1 Peter 2:11).
We should never seek anger, confrontation, or controversy, of course. But if we make people mad because we're
- doing the right thing,
- standing for the despised, neglected, or helpless, or
- seeking to faithfully follow and share Christ,
We should live with humble confidence in God and His love for us, knowing that we always have a home in His Kingdom.