Just shy of two weeks ago, the sports world watched as Peyton Manning said goodbye to Indianapolis after thirteen incredible seasons with the Colts. 11 Pro Bowls. Four-time league MVP. Two Super Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl victory and a game MVP to boot. His total career passing yards equal more than two trips around the earth. But after four neck surgeries and a looming $28 million contract payment looming, Jim Irsay decided it was time to say goodbye to one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history. When the news broke, experts quickly jumped in to provide an explanation of why Irsay made the decision. The consensus: just good business. It’s not personal, just business. Then I watched Peyton’s press conference. He never made it more than a few sentences without choking up and fighting back the tears. For something that was just business, it sure looked personal.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or perhaps gave up all media for Lent (if you did, stop reading this), then you know the sports news cycle has focused an inordinate amount of attention over the last two weeks to where Peyton would go next. All those questions were put to rest this week when it was announced that Peyton and I will soon be neighbors. Well, we’ll at least be living in the same metropolitan area – Denver, Colorado – as Peyton signed a 5-year contract that could be worth up to $96 million dollars. So everyone in Denver is thrilled, right? Well, not exactly.
You see, Denver already has a quarterback. And unless you spent the last six months under the aforementioned rock then you definitely know who he is. Tim Tebow set the sports world on fire last season with his last-minute comebacks and his unabashed commitment to a very public expression of his faith. He took a hapless and hopeless 1-4 Broncos team and by force of will, turned them into a playoff team. It wasn’t pretty, but he won. Moreover he won over the people of Denver, including me. Despite my admiration of his strong faith and character, I was a skeptic of Tebow early on. As one writer put it, “He throws like he’s chucking a ham and runs like he just stole a toaster!” It wasn’t always pretty, but as the season progressed you just couldn’t take your eyes off him. He won me over. He won this city over.
So when the news came that the Broncos were signing Peyton, I wasn’t shocked, but I was a little disappointed. For Tim, sure, but also for myself and other loyal Tebow fans here in Denver. He worked hard. He earned the love of (most of) the fans. He earned the right to lead this team. But when you have the chance to get a hall-of-fame quarterback, you jump on it. I get that. It’s just business, it’s not personal. So why do I feel disappointed? Why are people calling into the Broncos radio show blasting John Elway and the Broncos’ management? If it’s just business, why is everyone so upset? Why are so many people taking it so personally?
The fact is, it is personal. Life is personal. When we say things like “It’s just business” we’re often just trying to make ourselves feel better by justifying a decision that hurts others. Every day people have to make difficult decisions that impact the lives of others, often in very negative ways. These decisions are part of life, and yes they are part of business (and ministry). They cannot be avoided. But let’s not kid ourselves by saying that they’re not personal.
In a conversation with his disciples about the cost of following him, Jesus once asked rhetorically:
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Matthew 16:26)
It’s probably a good question to ask in situations where we feel tempted to tell ourselves “it’s not personal, it’s just business.” Because from the lens of eternity, it seems more likely that we’ll all look back and say “It’s not business, it’s just personal.”