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DeAndre Jordan and the value of our witness

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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DeAndre Jordan watches while a teammate answers a question from a reporter during the Los Angeles Clippers Media Day, September 29, 2014 (Credit: Panoramic/Icon Sportswire)

DeAndre Jordan is the most famous basketball player in America today.  Not because of what he’s done on the court, but because of what he won’t do on it.

The Dallas Mavericks recently offered the free-agent center the most lucrative contract they were allowed by NBA rules to submit.  Jordan gave his word that he would accept their contract, to the jubilation of Dallas officials and fans.  Then he reversed his decision late Wednesday, returning to his former team.

When rumors surfaced that he might change his mind, Jordan reportedly refused to meet with Mavericks officials or return their calls or texts.  Now he’s being vilified by Mavericks fans.  He may be the best center in the league, but he won’t ever be welcome in Dallas again.

Most fans understand a player changing his mind.  It happens all the time in business.  It’s the way he went about it—waiting until the Mavericks had no other good options at his position and then refusing to meet with team officials—that has enraged so many.

What we do is important, but the way we do it can be even more significant.

Here’s why this issue matters to me today: DeAndre Jordan is known for his commitment to Jesus.  He recently stated, “It’s that relationship—that faith—which keeps me grounded, focused and aware, even when certain things outside of my control don’t go my way.”

He added: “The most amazing thing about having faith and believing is that once you give yourself to the Lord, you are able to live freely.  You no longer need to worry about what has happened, what might happen, or what you want to happen; you simply need to be a good person and work hard, because you know God has a plan for you.”

I am grateful for Jordan’s faith, but worry now about his witness.  Warren Buffett noted: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”  I’ve never met DeAndre Jordan and have no idea what motivated his contract decision or the way he made it.  But I agree with evangelist Dwight Moody: “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me.”

A century before Christ, Roman writer Publilius Syrus observed that “a good reputation is more valuable than money.”  The Roman philosopher Epictetus added: “The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it.  Skillful pilots test their reputation from storms and tempests.”

Despite the present “storms and tempests,” I wish DeAndre Jordan well.  I will pray for him as my brother in Christ.  And I will pray for him, for myself, and for all believers to guard our witness carefully.  If we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:13), nothing matters more than protecting our light, to the glory of God.