Faith and football
Last night’s NFC championship game was a thriller, wasn’t it? The Seattle Seahawks come from behind win over the Green Bay Packers had a lot of exciting and memorable moments…the faked field goal….the interception in the end zone…the recovered onside kick…the completed 2-point conversion…and the pass from Russell Wilson for a touchdown in overtime to win the game. But for me, the most thrilling moment was post-game…when Wilson, in tears, and others knelt down and prayed, thanking God for the win.
‘Cause you know that’s right. God takes time off from attending to all the suffering in the world to make sure his team wins the game. Wilson, Tebow, Rodgers, et al…they all know that, so that’s why they give him props.
<shaking my head>
Poking fun at Christian athletes in their public displays of faith seems to be a sport in itself sometimes. I guess I should expect those who have no concept of, much less belief in a totally sovereign God to be ridiculous in their ridicule. What makes the above meme even more laughable is that Tim Tebow, who has probably taken most of these hyped and often hypocritical hits, has almost certainly done more to help starving and otherwise underprivileged kids than any of his detractors. Put together.
Maybe some of his detractors and others who roll their eyes or snicker when athletes acknowledge the Almighty during or after a game would change their attitude if they better understood what’s really going on there. Maybe. One can hope…can’t one?
One big misconception that needs to be corrected is that God likes some teams or players better than others…that he has his own fantasy football team of sorts. So when a player points to the heavens he’s saying, hey, thanks for picking me. Or when Russell Wilson and other Seahawks players knelt together after the game it was because they realized that God wanted their team in the Super Bowl and they sure wanted to thank him for that. ‘Cause that means they’re his favorite.
Another misconception is that if God has anything to do with what happens in a football game, then he’s either shallow, manipulative, petty, or neglecting weightier needs in the world. Or all of the above.
What needs to be understood is that God is aware of and has ultimate control over everything that happens in the universe. So even a simple completed pass is not completed outside of his providence. He could have blown it just a tad left or given that defender a boost in leaping to block it. He may have guided the quarterback’s aim or kept the receiver from tripping over his own feet. I know it sounds incredible to think that God is involved in every game going on everywhere in the world, but that’s because we have such a limited understanding of his greatness and power. And because he knows the end from the beginning, and every event ripples out in ways we can never see, he may have very good reasons for tweaking that pass.
When a believing athlete gives God thanks and praise for his own performance or the outcome of the game, it’s because he knows nothing happens outside of God’s knowledge and control. When the game doesn’t end the way he wanted, a true believer acknowledges God then also, trusting that with his help he will grow and learn from the experience and glorify God even in the loss.
And when a believing athlete is interviewed after a victory, he or she will likely want to take the opportunity to publicly thank and praise God because they know they have a position and influence that few do. And God is so worthy of honor and glory that they can’t in good conscience not take it. Few if any of them are obnoxious about it, at least in the minds of those who truly believe in freedom of religion and expression and aren’t threatened by the reminder that their profession of faith may in fact be founded on truth.
I was actually rooting for the Packers last night, but when I witnessed Russell Wilson unabashedly, tearfully, on his knees with other players after their win…I thanked God for their victory as well.