The movie 42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson’s experience as the first African-American baseball player in the Major Leagues.
It is a satisfying movie in the archetypal sports movie kind of way, but I was surprised to appreciate it most in a theological sort of way. Curious? Watch the movie trailer, and keep reading.
Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Robinson fully aware of the social fury that would ensue. When Rickey instructed Robinson not to fight back, under any circumstances, Robinson responded, “Do you want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” Rickey replied, “No! I want a player who has the guts NOT to fight back.”
That would be much more difficult.
I saw this movie (conveniently) as I was preparing to teach on the Apostle Paul’s famous passage about spiritual battles in which he uses the word stand four times in eight verses. We’re instructed to wear the armor of God, “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…”
We are not instructed to fight, to advance, to march, or to run, but to stand.
We stand because Jesus has already won the victory.
There is no need to fight for Kingdom ground that Jesus has already claimed. As Watchman Nee put it in his book, Sit, Walk, Stand, “Thus today we do not fight for victory; we fight from victory.” (p. 55)
Like Robinson played for the Dodgers at Rickey’s invitation, we hold positions on God’s team at the pleasure of the Owner. When we take the field to play our parts on His team no matter who or what opposes us, we stand ready to participate in God’s eternal plan.
Like Jackie Robinson.
Who or what were the enemies opposing Jackie Robinson?
Ignorant fans? A racist manager? No, they were pawns in a much larger fight. Robinson’s presence on the Brooklyn Dodgers exposed a spiritual stronghold of racism that had put down deep roots in our country over hundreds of years. Racism was the real enemy, and the fight to defeat it was far larger than any conflict on a baseball field.
For Robinson to fight against human hecklers would have been to lose ground in the larger spiritual battle.
Whether Jackie Robinson knew it or not, and I suspect he did, he was following Jesus. Jesus did not fight. He stood silently before Pilate, knowing that in so standing he would win the decisive battle in the cosmic struggle against Satan.
Jesus taught and demonstrated for us the power of a strong stand. Do we have the guts to believe it?
What position do you play on God’s team? Do you face opposition? Is it difficult to stand?
“…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13