The major benefit of having an open mind is that you then have the capability of growing as a person, as well as the opportunity to learn more than you already know.
But it’s sometimes difficult to be open to more than you know and are comfortable with. For former Green Bay Packers star Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, the diversity of opinions that surrounded him as he grew up helped him in many ways, especially in his aptitude for learning new ideas.
“Both parents came from Nigeria. There’s seven of us, my dad was Muslim and my mom was Christian, so I grew up in that kind of dynamic. During my years at San Diego State, I remember having arguments as a Muslim; I claimed to be a Muslim at heart, and arguing with all of the Christians on the team. A lot of the guys couldn’t answer my questions and said they’d get back to me. I was searching for truth, I was searching for something greater than what I was experiencing,” Gbaja-Biamila says.
He was also searching for something greater professionally. After his time at San Diego State, Gbaja-Biamila was selected by Green Bay in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Not only was KGB going into a situation where he would play for a perennial Super Bowl contender in Green Bay, but he would also have the chance to be mentored by some of the best people in the league.
“(Director of Player Development) Gil Byrd was something different, something I’ve never seen before. He and his family just took me under their wings. I saw how he’d treat his wife, how he’d treat his kids. I remember one day he said, ‘We don’t worship the same God.’ It kind of offended me and took me back a little bit. I said, ‘Okay, well, show me where Jesus said he was God.’” Gbaja-Biamila had already had this conversation with a variety of friends, teammates, and students, but this time was different.
“I was expecting him to give me the typical answer like I had gotten in the past because that was what my dad had always told me: ‘You ask these Christians these questions and watch how they stumble.’ This guy opens his Bible to show me something I’ve been asking all of these people for. I was just so blown away that this man was prepared to give me an answer for what he believed in.”
“So I went home and I decided to hit the Bible for myself because what I argued was always what my dad had told me. I remember getting on my knees, I didn’t know which god I was praying to, but I wanted to pray to the guy who created me. I prayed: “God, whoever created Muhammed-Kabeer Olanrewaju Gbaja-Biamila,”—and I said my whole name just to make sure he was right—“As I read this Bible, help me to find the contradictions so that I can show these Christians where they are in error.”
“I decided to start in the Old Testament. One of my arguments was that man wrote this book; it wasn’t God. So as I was reading through it, I got to Chapter 6 and in there He says, ‘Every inclination of man in the heart is wicked all of the time.’ Then I get into the laws and I start seeing all of these things of what not to do and I’m saying, ‘That’s a sin? And that’s a sin?’ My sins were multiplying before my very own eyes. I became aware that the things that this God was saying were sins, I had already committed.”
“So I started thinking there was no hope. There was no way I was going to make it to Paradise. There was no way I could make it on my own. But because of all of this stuff I heard about Jesus, all of a sudden Jesus started making sense, and as I was reading [scriptures specifically about Him], I saw how perfectly good he was. I knew that if there’s hope, there’s hope in Jesus. So I ran to the Cross. I was on this journey to prove the Bible wrong, but the Bible ended up proving me wrong.”
While many would find it impossibly difficult to turn from the faith of their father—particularly within the traditions of Islam—Gbaja-Biamila showed his open-mindedness yet again.
“I needed the Old Testament, the laws, to see that if I compare myself to that standard, I fall short. But because of God’s promise through His son Jesus Christ, and His blood that was shed for me, that’s why I get to go to Heaven.”
KGB’s NFL career has now ended, but he has stayed active in every community that he has lived in since. His work with both the homeless and youth in Green Bay was admired by many, but he stays humble throughout it all.
“If I’m doing any bragging, I’m going to be bragging about Your Son and what Your Son did for me. All the good stuff I’ve done is because of what You did for me. It’s always about His glory and what He’s done. I’m just fortunate and very blessed that I get to be a part of anything good that He’s got going on.” —Brian Rzeppa