Here it comes. Wait for it….
First, I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Ugh. Now get on with how YOU and YOUR TEAM won the Super Bowl. What does some dead Jewish rabbi have to do with it?
I imagine this was the skeptical color commentary heard in the minds of many unbelievers Sunday night at the awarding of the Lombardi trophy to the Philadelphia Eagles. They expected it…dreaded it…and it did come, this year first from Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson. In snack-strewn living rooms and noisy bars across the country the unwelcome profession of faith was derided and ridiculed, and the faith itself likened to brainwashing.
If you’re one of those skeptical types, let me tell you I get it. It can seem almost cultish…the familiar, attributing refrain and the skyward-pointing fingers…as if these players and coaches were getting subliminal, religiously indoctrinating messages while watching game footage with the team. And idiotic. Haven’t you been practicing that play all year? Didn’t you work your butt off to help your team get to the Super Bowl? Did you fly into the end zone or did you actually use your legs and feet and the muscles you sweated buckets to bulk up?
What does Jesus have to do with football, why do you have to mention him, and why would a God who loves everyone favor one team over another?
What’s going on
There are at least two things going on when an athlete credits God for a successful play or a win. First, he is humbly acknowledging that God is in control of all things. It’s not that he doesn’t recognize his own part in his success, but he knows that God could have orchestrated a different outcome no matter what he did. And he knows that God gifted him with certain talents and that his every breath is a gift as well.
Secondly, professional sports are a world stage and the solid Christians who are on it feel a responsibility to use it for the glory of God and, as Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz (who did “fly” into the end zone for a Super Bowl TD) said, to “make disciples.” They know what an impact, and it’s huge, their confident faith can have on the millions who watch them play. And since they know the world needs what they have found in Christ, if they care about the world, they’re going to share it.
God is desperate
And it’s not that God plays favorites. The Patriots have Christians on the team as well who would have praised him had they been victorious. God isn’t on anyone’s side…he’s on everyone’s side, because he wants everyone to know him and share eternal life with him. So he may very well have given Ertz a little boost to make sure he crossed the goal line because he knew that when the Eagles won they would praise and credit him. Not because God is desperate for recognition but because he is desperate for those he loves (you) to know that he does and that he has made a way for you to enjoy him forever.
So, skeptical friend, though you may not be convinced by the faith that has convinced Pederson, Foles, Ertz and many others, give these guys a break when they express it. They’re not parroting a cult mantra and they’re not stupid. They’re brave but humble men who know their place before a great and sovereign God and they’re only giving him his due. What’s more, they know you’re watching.
They’re doing it for you.