Happy 99th Birthday, John Wooden

Today marks the 99th birthday of basketball coaching legend, John Wooden. In his 27 seasons of coaching the UCLA Bruins he won ten NCAA titles (at one time he won seven titles in a row), and 664 games, eventually becoming known as the “Wizard of Westwood.” (To put this into perspective, coach Mike Krzyzewski has won three and Dean Smith two titles.) One of the amazing traits of his success was that he managed to win all of those ballgames, and national championships without the use of profanity, or allowing his players to use profanity.

In a world in which profanity is now commonplace, and civility rare, Wooden’s deportment seems peculiar at best. One hears (or reads) crude language everywhere: in blogs, on Facebook, on television, in movies, and surprisingly even in pulpits (a la Mark Driscoll and Mark Driscoll wannabes). It all seems to be driven by a desire to be “cool” or to use the newest buzzphrase, “to speak the language of the culture.”

One must understand that I am not advocating a Christianity consisting of “Don’t drink, or smoke, or chew, or run around with girls who do.” People are not made right with God by the things they do, or don’t do, since the Bible tells us “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Gal. 2:16) We are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, but because we have been justified, our longing should be, “in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit” to “endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ.” (PCA Book of Church Order, Membership vows)

Included in “living as becomes the followers of Christ,” should be a desire to follow the Scriptural injunction, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:4) We should do this not as a legalistic following of a moralism, but out of a sincere desire to bring glory and honor to our Lord. I have no idea whether John Wooden is a believer or not, but our modern culture could learn much from the way this man lived his life with class and respect.

(Side note: For all of you who think Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player who ever lived, please remember that Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for the entire 1961-62 season: 12.5 rebounds, 11.5 assists, and 30.4 points a game, and that Bill Russell won the MVP award five times, and won 11 NBA championships in his 13 year career.)


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