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NBA’s Jonathan Isaac: ‘We all fall short of God’s glory’

By Ryan Klinker, November 28, 2023

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac shared how he learned to stand boldly for God in his career and in life, even when others encouraged the opposite, during Convocation on Sept. 1.

Following the death of George Floyd in 2020, teams across the league were kneeling during the national anthem and wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts. Games were being held in the NBA bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Isaac was the first player to stand during the national anthem, a decision that was followed by support from some and backlash from others. When asked if he would participate by kneeling and wearing the shirt, Isaac told his team that he saw the movement differently.

“I found myself in this moment not really understanding my place in it,” he said. “I started to explain to them, ‘I see the problem, I just have a different solution. We all fall short of God’s glory, and I don’t want to point fingers at an individual person — or an entire race for that matter — because I need grace and mercy just like (everyone does).’”

The night before the game, he called his pastor and explained his concerns about taking this stand for his views, and his pastor simply told him, “You cannot stand for God and God not stand for you.”

The next day, Isaac stood for the national anthem and did not wear the shirt, making national headlines and getting “plastered” online.

“The heartbeat of what I was trying to do was (share) that I believe that we all fall short of God’s glory, and if any of us are throwing stones at any person or anything, we are throwing stones in a glass house,” he said. “If we would love each other the way that God loves us, which is in spite of our sins and shortcomings, there could be real change between white and black people, for all people.”

Born in The Bronx, Isaac moved to Naples, Fla., in middle school, and he struggled to fit in due to standing out as a tall, black student among mostly white classmates. He developed anxiety, which would continue into his college career and early NBA years.

“I put everything that I had into creating this identity as a basketball player, to the point that I was the No. 1 player in the state of Florida, but what nobody knew was that I was struggling so much behind the scenes with anxiety,” Isaac said. “This thing on the inside of me was growing. The more and more people expected of me, the higher I got as a basketball player; I was having this dichotomy of working so hard for love and trying so hard not to lose it by playing badly.”

Isaac grew up in church, but he didn’t have a relationship with Christ when he entered the NBA in 2017. Through the persistence of Christians around him who sought after him, Isaac eventually found a new purpose: the one God has for him.

“I was so used to clinging to the perception that other people had of me and striving to be loved, (but) I started to rest in the love that God has for me. I’ve had so many ups and downs, I’ve been injured, I’ve trusted God, I’ve walked with God, and there are a few things I know to be true. I know that the world is changing, and the necessity of you being able to stand up for your faith is only going to become more paramount, (yet) harder to do.”

Isaac met with Liberty students after his time on the Convocation stage.

He charged the students to stand up in their own ways.

“God is trying to equip each and every one of you with purpose, and you’re going to carry out something for the Kingdom of God. It’s going to be a stand in one way or another, if it’s before the Lord or in your everyday life, and you’re going to have to do it or you will not be who God has created you to be.”

Watch Convocations live on Liberty’s Facebook page. View past Convocations at Watch.Liberty.edu or on YouTube.

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