A “program defining” win.
That’s how college football pundits described Syracuse University’s recent win over #2 ranked Clemson. For us SU fan’s, we just call it awesome.
If you’re a resident of Syracuse, I’m sure that regardless of your engagement with SU athletics, you welled up with pride at the prospect of Syracuse being praised and promoted for its success on the national stage. But if you’re anything like me, as great as celebrating sports achievements is, you find yourself surprisingly dissatisfied.
As the joy dissipates and celebrations fade, we Syracusans are faced with the bitter reality that what we really long for is not merely a redefined football program, but the redefinition of Syracuse itself.
Let me explain.
1. To live in Syracuse you have to love Syracuse
I’ve spent a lot of my life travelling around the world and I’ve lived in a bunch of different cities. Sometimes when I’m travelling (usually to California) I’ll ask myself, “Why do I live in Syracuse again?” In fact, I’m pretty sure EVERY Syracusan has asked themselves the same question at some point in their life.
Now the answer to this question is as diverse as the people who inhabit the city, but for most of us, the simplest response is, “It’s home.”
It’s no wonder that we are dissatisfied with athletic achievement, because it doesn’t encapsulate our definition of “home,” it merely highlights one aspect of it. We want to celebrate successes at the core of our definition, like economic advancement or crime reduction, not merely the peripherals. Unfortunately, in recent years, we haven’t been afforded many opportunities to celebrate these core achievements because attention has focused the city’s weaknesses instead.
2. Syracuse is defined by its limitations
In recent years, Syracuse has been defined by its limitations. From a nationally published article describing the “decimation of Syracuse” by exponential increases in poverty, to the consistent reminder of the inadequacies of city schools, to crime rates consistently well above national averages, it’s difficult to get excited about what defines Syracuse.
Add to this the prevailing gloom imposed by freezing temperatures and the country’s highest snowfall, and it’s a wonder we ever leave our houses.
The sad thing is that being defined by our limitations is not new to those who have lived here for an extended period of time. More so, many of us openly acknowledge this definition but feel helpless and overwhelmed to make any type of meaningful impact — so we stop trying and accept it.
I’d feel the same way… if I didn’t know the redefining power of Jesus.
3. Jesus showed up and redefined everything
Whether you acknowledge the deity of Jesus or not, it’s impossible to deny that he redefined the world as it was known.
He redefined interpersonal interactions (Matt. 5:39), wealth (Mark 8:36), power (Matt. 19:30), religion (John 8:7), race relations (Acts 10:34) and most importantly, humanity’s relationship to its Creator (Rom. 8:15).
Jesus’ redefinition of our relationship to God the Father transforms us as we are adopted into his family and empowered to reflect the attributes of Christ. As we then embody these attributes in our circles of influence, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we bring about the same redefining results as Jesus.
These results include enhanced interpersonal relationships through mutual submission, increased generosity instead of selfish accumulation, serving “the least” among us and striving for racial and cultural unity. When combined, the problems that plague Syracuse can be incrementally reduced until the tipping point of societal change is achieved, redefining our city.
So what would Syracuse be defined by if each of us lived lives reflecting the power of Jesus in our circles of influence?
I’d wager it would be a whole lot more satisfying than winning a football game.
Check out these links to learn more about the Gospel’s positive impact on the issues that plague cities:
Read What People Want In Their City by Eric Swanson
Read The Difference Christianity Could Make In The City by Tim Keller
Listen to 7 Pillars of Society by The Lifeschool Podcast
“Syracuse” by John Marino is licensed under CC BY 2.0