Faith and Football

December 9, 2011

Let me tell you what you will not find here.  You will not find me fussing at those who go crazy at a football game, sitting out in the elements to watch their favorite team even lingering at the stadium long after the game is over but attending worship only to complain about the length of the service and the temperature in the facility.  I understand the difference in the venues that call forth from us different ways of responding.  But you will not find here either an argument that we can learn so much that is fundamental for our faith from playing on a football team or from being involved generally in sports activities.  And this from one who grow up in a fanatical football team and learned some valuable lessons in life from being a part of a football team.  I learned discipline and devotion to a cause.  I learned how to keep going when it hurt to do so.  I learned how much I needed other team members in order to accomplish goals and so many other valuable lessons for living from being a part of a football team.  But I would never argue for my part that playing the game was an instrument in evoking faith in Jesus or enabling me to be more faithful to Him.  It was simply a fun game to play from which I learned some lessons about life.  It was a good way to pass the time from August through December that made for some really exciting Friday nights in the Fall, at least for several years of my adolescence.  But to make it more than that is to walk very close to the edge of idolatry.  It is to make out of a game exactly what we must not make out of a game and thus assign it the kind of meaning in our lives that it cannot and must not carry.

The football team from our local private school made it two years in a row to the State Championship game.  Our town is proud of them.  We should me.  Some of our kids from our church played on those teams.  I am happy for them that they got that far and sad that they lost.  But at the end of the day, it is a game.  It is no more than that.  It is a fun game.  It can be a very frustrating and fulfilling game, but it is still a game.  The football team from our local public school will play this weekend for the state championship of their classification.  Our town is thrilled.  Signs signifying support are everywhere.  They should be.  We are properly proud  of what these guys have done.  One of our members is a coach and I am happy for him.  Thousands will drive to the stadium in our capital city to see the game and they should.  Some will paint their faces blue and white and others will go crazy for a few hours.  That is good and right.  But by Saturday night around 7:30 one team will have won and the other will have lost----a game.  That’s all.  To see it as more than that is to make far too much of it.  To act as if it is the most important thing happening this weekend is to walk beyond the boundaries of what life really is all about.  It is just a game.

Maybe that is why so many people are so hard on my man Tebow.  It is not just that he is a bold witness to Jesus.  Others in professional sports in our country are that.  It is not that he kneels in the end zone when he scores and prays.  Many do that.  I believe that so many blow up over Tebow because he sees the sport for what it is.  It is a game.  Recently he said that he was not concerned in football with what others are concerned with; his concern in his faithful witness to Jesus WHICH THIS GAME HAS ENHANCED FOR HIM.  It is not for him about the game; it is about the glory of God.  He knows the difference.  We do too when we can go and enjoy the game and when it is over see it and know it for what it is:  it is a game.