Scott Nagy is head coach for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. I've tried to learn a bit about him, but most of the information is about basketball. Bits and pieces of the information I have found indicate some very positive and touching things — an adopted child from Haiti, for example, and the work he and his wife have done to get shoes for other children in the orphanage from which she came.

My interest in Coach Nagy centers on a quote he has been using during this season to inspire his players. It came to national attention by virtue of his team making its way to the NCAA post-season tournament. Even though the Rabbits lost to Michigan in the first round, his theme bears repeating and sharing.

"Play Like You're Loved" has been the slogan for his SDSU team, according to the New York Times. "We don't run around like we're in a lovey-dovey commune," says Nagy, "but what I want our guys to know is that family, teammates, and coaches love them and that you don't have to perform in order to know that you are loved."

I don't know if that is good coaching technique, but I do know it reflects a theological insight most people could use!

Another team in the final rounds of March Madness took the court to the mantra "Play Angry." Now I've seen Christians — whole churches even — function from anger. They tend to be brittle and jittery. And the people around them tend to feel their anger as mean-spirited judgment. The "Play Angry" plan for being God's people in the world has driven lots of people away from Christ.

Revel in it!
Maybe more theologians and preachers should take a cue from Coach Nagy. According to ESPN, his team speech just prior to the conference championship game that sent the Rabbits to college basketball's Big Dance ended with this:
I want you to play like you're loved. Play freely. Love isn't dependent on your performance. No matter how you play, you are loved. Play with that in mind.

My friend, you aren't charged with earning God's love this week. Your challenge is to believe it, accept it, and revel in it. To live in the knowledge of acceptance and forgiveness. And to pass it along to others you encounter.

As the apostle Paul wrote long ago:

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:19 NLT).