I’m a Fan of Serena
I’m a fan of Serena Williams. I’m a fan of most any American who is successful on the world stage. The “Williams Sisters”, as they are so often called, have dominated women’s tennis for years, and Serena’s performance following childbirth and the complications that followed is absolutely amazing.
But there is that unfortunate incident that occurred recently at the U.S. Open, in which Serena called an umpire a “liar” and a “thief” because he disciplined her coach for cheating, and her for her behavior following the penalty. Her young opponent, Naomi Osaka, though booed by the fans upon her victory, remained collected and showed incredible maturity and class throughout.
Soon after the completion of the match Serena voiced her belief that male and female tennis players are treated differently when it comes to poor behavior on the court. I have not watched enough tennis matches to know if Serena’s claims are justified, but it would not surprise me to discover there are those who are intentionally harder on women players because they expect them to act more “lady-like.”
Regardless, I wish to praise Martina Navratilova for a wonderfully true statement she penned in the wake of the U.S. Open Women’s Championship. She wrote, “Serena Williams has part of it right. There is a huge double standard for women when it comes to how bad behavior is punished — and not just in tennis. But in her protests against an umpire during the United States Open final on Saturday, she also got part of it wrong. I don’t believe it’s a good idea to apply a standard of ‘If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too.’ Rather, I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?”
As I pondered these words, my mind turned to my personal walk and the excuses I have used to explain away my behavior. If you don’t already know it, preachers are held to a different standard. I am not talking about the standard that all leaders in the church should be expected to uphold. We are, after all, leaders. The Bible is clear that more is expected of us. God does have a double-standard when it comes to leaders and I understand (Acts 20:28).
But there are other, non-biblical standards. When I was a very young minister, I was once called out for playing golf on Sunday afternoon, even though I was playing with a Deacon, and my membership to the golf club had been given to me by the men’s Sunday School class. I also got in trouble, once, for shopping at the “Catholic” grocery instead of the “Protestant” one. Other church members shopped at the “Catholic” grocery, but since I was the preacher at a non-Catholic church, the standard was different for me. In response my wife and I decided to shop at the non-denominational Kroger in a town ten miles down the road.
Stick with me. I promise you this is going somewhere.
I have talked with Christians who don’t like the double standard that is applied to them because of their faith. In fact, they are reluctant to let others know they are believers because they are afraid they will be treated differently. Teased perhaps. Or worse yet, cut out of opportunities because others assume they will be too religious to mix well with the team.
Regardless of the double-standards we identify in our lives, if we become overly sensitive to how unfairly we are being treated, we can miss the point. The point Martina so eloquently expressed.
Our goal should be to live in such a way we are always bringing honor to the Lord. The petty stuff we have to deal with in life is just that. It should not produce a chip on our shoulder that leads us to act out of character.
Does this mean sometimes we will have to accept misperceptions people have of what it means to be a Christian? Yes. Will we encounter those who are quick to judge our behavior as being hypocritical, even though their lives are riddled with inconsistencies? You can bet on it.
But if we rant and rave about how wrong it is for people to treat us unfairly because of our faith, what good will it do? And need I mention what Jesus had to say about the subject? “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Mat 5:11-13 NIV)
I’m still going to watch the Williams sisters play tennis, and cheer for them to win. Because, after all, I can’t hold them to a higher standard than I hold myself. I must admit I have smashed a few proverbial rackets in my lifetime.
And if you have a problem with that, I would like to use one of my challenges.