Monday, September 26, 2011

God and the NFL

Football; if not the most popular and revered sport in the United States/North America today, it is a front runner. From the high school level to college, right up to the gods that do battle on the gridiron for 16 weeks of regular season play in the NFL, football is a focal point of existence for millions and millions of people.

From a world perspective this a great thing. The popularity of football has generated billions of dollars in revenue from the sale of tickets, television rights, advertising, merchandise, etc. And for all of those faithful who bleed the color of their favorite team, each week they have dozens of opportunities to participate and initiate hype for the coming week’s games. They can talk ball with their buddies, they can play in multiple fantasy football leagues, they can place wagers online or in person; there is an entire culture waiting with open arms to help suck them into the whirlwind of the NFL season.

The 16 week NFL season is a literal smorgasbord for the senses; beautiful women, gambling, beer, good times, food, rivalries, comradery, expensive officially logoed merchandise, and highly skilled professional athletes performing at the top of their sport. What more can a man want?

That’s precisely the problem. 

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
Luke 16: 13-15 (NASB)

In the entirety of the passage of Luke 16: 1-18, Jesus was talking about being a good steward; something I have personally failed at more times than I can count. But nonetheless, Jesus’ point was that we are to be faithful with what we are given. And when we are given little and found trustworthy, then we will be given more. Of course, as people, we tend to equate these types of statements as meaning only money; if we’re faithful with our money we will get rich.

And Jesus did tell us that we cannot serve both God and money, or we will hate one because of our love for the other. But His words apply to much more than just money, because Jesus said no servant can serve two masters. He was talking to the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, but He could have just as easily been talking to the 19 million viewers/game, Fox enjoyed, in the 2010 NFL regular season.  

As slaves of Christ, we know we are saved by His sovereign grace and not by our works. And we know that no food is unclean. But have we forgotten that we are not to cause our brothers to stumble? Have we forgotten that while we participate equally with the love of football, that we are not separating ourselves from the culture that embraces this world and sin? There are millions of people waiting each week, for one thing and one thing only; this week’s NFL games and all that goes with that. They are waiting like, we as children of God, should be waiting for Christ. Those millions of people are faithfully preparing their shrines all week long for the games that will give them hope.

It is a tragedy. Millions of people headed for hell who think they are simply headed for another good time this week. It isn’t a sin for me to drink wine, unless I cause my brother to stumble. It isn’t a sin for me to play a round of golf, unless I cause my brother to stumble. And it isn’t a sin for me to watch a football game, unless I cause my brother to stumble. All of those things would be sinful if I loved them and served them. And all of those things would be sinful if I had doubts about partaking in them, but did it anyway. (Romans 14: 23)

Brothers, I am not judging you if you have an interest in football. I am pleading with you to watch your step and look at how your actions could cause others to stumble. There are millions of people who have made the NFL and its players, gods. Many of those people might even be children of the real God of Israel.  He must increase, I must decrease. Let us be mindful of the lost, even when we want to eat that which we know is clean in and of itself. While you might be eating that which is clean, it might be utterly filthy for someone right beside you, and you might be causing that person to stumble.

It is our faith in Christ that saves us, and it is by grace that we receive the gift of salvation. Now let’s be faithful to our Lord and put aside any of our desires that might cause a brother to stumble. I pray that the Lord finds me faithful today. 

For God’s glory in Christ is revealed!

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