What kind of a teammate are you?

Jackie Robinson
Anyone who has played sports knows how important a great teammate can be.

As the saying goes, “You can lose with good players, but you cannot win without them.” It’s amazing what a team full of unselfish players who are willing to sacrifice for the team are able to accomplish. Hall of Fame center Bill Russell once said, “The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.” That is so true!

One of my favorite stories about teamwork from the world of sports happened during the 1947 or 1948 baseball season. Exactly when it happened is up for debate but the two players involved had a major impact on the future of baseball. The two players were Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. In 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first black Major League Baseball player and Pee Wee was the shortstop on Jackie’s team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. As the Brooklyn Dodgers traveled to different cities Jackie was routinely heckled by fans. Additionally, many of Jackie’s own teammates weren’t happy that he was on the team. During one particular road trip in Cincinnati, the fans were hurling insults at Jackie during pre-game infield practice. Pee Wee Reese then walked up to Jackie and put his arm around him in a show of support. Imagine the impact if you were one of the fans heckling Jackie Robinson and all of a sudden all-star shortstop Pee Wee Reese comes up to Jackie and puts his arm around him! It says a lot for the character of Pee Wee Reese when he did what was right even though it was an unpopular thing to do at the time. Joe Black, a black pitcher who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1952 to 1955 said about Pee Wee Reese, “When Pee Wee reached out to Jackie, all of us in the Negro Leagues smiled and said it was the first time that a white guy had accepted us. When I finally got up to Brooklyn, I went to Pee Wee and said, ‘Black people love you. When you touched Jackie, you touched all of us.’ With Pee Wee, it was No. 1 on his uniform and No. 1 in our hearts.” Who wouldn’t want that kind of a teammate? With one simple act of friendship, Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson taught us all a great lesson about teamwork.

This reminds me of an incredible story of friendship and teamwork in the Bible. The story is found in Mark 2:1-12.

Four men come to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus. They had undoubtedly heard about Jesus and knew that He could heal their friend. But there was one major problem. The crowds were too much. They couldn’t get to Jesus. They were carrying their paralyzed friend on a mat and there appeared to be no way to get close enough to Jesus so that their friend could be healed. So what did they decide to do? Perhaps they could have given up. I mean they tried their best, right? Maybe they could have gone back home sad and dejected? No way! There was no way these four friends were going to abandon their mission that easily. They were going to do everything within their power to get their friend to Jesus. They started digging a hole in the roof above Jesus! Nothing would deter these four men from their mission.

Eventually, they dug a hole in the roof and lowered their friend on a mat to Jesus. Mark 2:5 says, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” It’s so interesting that Mark points out how Jesus saw their faith. These four friends had great faith. They did whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus. Nothing would deter them from completing their mission. Talk about some awesome teammates! Those are the kind of teammates I want on my team! Perhaps more importantly, those are the kind of teammates that we want to be for other people in our lives. I will be the first to admit that I have not always been that kind of teammate. I can think of countless times where regretfully I’ve put my own needs above the needs of others. But there is great news! We serve a God of forgiveness and redemption. God loves us and He wants us to be the kind of teammates who will bring other people closer to Him. That is exactly what the four friends did in Mark 2. They got their friend to Jesus. So the next time you think about teamwork, remember the following three lessons.

  1. Great teammates do whatever it takes to benefit the team. 
  1. Great teammates have the integrity to do what’s right against what’s popular. 
  1. Great teammates know the importance of getting to Jesus! 

Question for reflection:

What kind of a teammate are you? This week, go back and read the story of the four friends in Mark 2 for encouragement.