A whole lot of us invested a whole lot of time this weekend to football-NFL football to be precise.  Even if you didn’t watch the pre-game shows, the countdowns, and the post-game highlights; if you watched both championship games you invested about 7 hours of your Sunday.  Two thrillers with much last second drama. The AFC contest was decided by a field goal, or better yet–the lack of one. After kicking 16 field goals in a row, Ravens kicker Bill Cundiff shanked a relatively simply 32-yarder that would have forced that game into over time.  Instead the New England Patriots are heading to their 5th Super Bowl in 10 years.The NFC version featured overtime.  It was settled by a Lawrence Tynes field goal with almost ten minutes gone in the overtime, the second time in his careers has accomplished this feat in a championship game.

The waitresses at my favorite restaurant, Silver Spring Family Restaurant, were clearly for the Giants. In fact they cajoled their boss (who normally could care less about football) to wear a blue Eli Manning jersey for the entire weekend.  George doesn’t even like football, but he was caught in the currents of what was dominating his staff and wore a blue Eli Manning jersey with Manning on the back. One of the waitresses told me she was secretly rooting for the 49ers because she didn’t like football.  I think she was also defending her sense of personal independence in the hysteria.

Football became the focal point of a cultural debate over a young Christian named Tim Tebow who led the Denver Broncos from a dismal season’s beginning to a playoff game where they humbled the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers.  “Tebowing” – an imitation or a mockery of Tim’s prayer stance became a fad.  And the most zealous of his supporters noted prophetically that he threw for 316 yards in that game.  Say “John 3:16 everyone” and spread the idea that four officials were named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (Actually football has more than four officials.)

A giant and horrendous child molestation scandal broke out in Happy Valley as the charges against Jerry Sandusky mounted and Joe Paterno, fatherly coaching icon was stripped of his job.  I was never sure which aroused more ire in football fandom – the crimes against young boys or the perceived injustice of Penn State Trustees in firing Joe Pa.

Obviously, a whole lot of us care about football.  But at the same time, the iconoclasts have asked the question, “Does God care about football?”

I think certainly not in the way we care about it.  I mean do we truly believe as thoughtful Christians that God seeks vindication by having Alabama triumph over LSU in the BCS?  Are the Tigers somehow spiritually inferior to the Crimson Tide, even though there are fine young Christians on both sides of the ball who publicly thank God for their gifts and skills?

I think not.

God cares about football in the way that He cares about all of His creation.  All of his creation is the object of His love, and all of Creation shares equally in that love.  Be it lilies of the field or puppy dogs or linebackers or coaches who have fallen from grace.  All of His Creation is intended to bring glory to Him and to reveal His goodness.

As with anything He loves, God grieves when it is used to replace Him in the affections of men.  He is saddened by things that He loves, things He has created living at cross purpose to his purposes. After all he went to the cross to affirm that absolute love found in His purposes.

So maybe we need to take football off of its pedestal. We should stop seeking to find our worth and joy in that, which like the other BCS games, will soon be forgotten. We should remember to use football for His purposes so that people might really discover what is important.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

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