|The small God of our cynicism.|
Of course, that was the year that the Tim Tebow experiment emphatically stirred up the most predictable debate about faith in sports: "Does God care who wins a game?"
Such was the popular anxiety over this question that news outlets felt the need to repeatedly poll the nation (which was predictably split on the matter). But the question is not new. After all, Roger Staubach first popularized the idea of the "Hail Mary pass" in 1975. Still, it generally takes an outspoken Christian to set the sporting world's teeth on edge and bring out the vitriol, or at least the ambivalence. Former NFL great Fran Tarkenton speaks for many:
"As a player, I never understood why God would care who won a game between my team and another. There were religious guys on both teams. If God gets credit for the win, does he also take blame for defeat?"Of course, it's easy to point out that Frantic Fran may suffer from the bias on one who lost all three Super Bowls he started in, but the larger point is that his observation seems to carry a ring of truth. A sporting event is not a binary event where God judges the more righteous team and grants it the victory. Despite the insinuations, no serious person--Christian or not--would argue such a thing. Certainly Brother Tebow never has.
The problem with this discussion lies below the surface. Scrape away the top layer of the common objections to vocal Christian athletes and you will generally find arguments such as this one:
"I think Jesus might have more important issues on his plate: disease, maybe. War. Poverty."Here at last is the core of the issue. God can't possibly care about sports because He's busy with really important stuff. This sounds right on the face of it, until you stop to consider what that says about God. You see, He can only handle so much. Do you really expect Him to take time out from disease, war and poverty to flick on a football game? How ridiculous!
Those who make such arguments are essentially saying that God is too big and important to worry about small and petty issues like football. The problem is that their argument makes God out to be very small indeed, for it presumes that God is unable to multitask. It assumes, in short, that God is like me ... finite, time-constrained and overwhelmed by "important issues". Like a divine circus performer desperate to keep a dozen plates spinning at once.
This is not the God of the Bible. Our God is the author of history ... every part of it. Not just the Super Bowl, but the preseason. Not just my cancer, but my hangnail. He is the God who watches every sparrow and counts every hair on my head.
The team who wins the Super Bowl will be the one which God purposes to win it. In so doing, He will give some an opportunity to glorify Him in victory, while other glorify Him in defeat. Many of His people on both sides of the final score will gain the opportunity to testify to His goodness, both in victory and defeat. Many will be subjected to trials of faith and emerge stronger, refined and purified. Through it all, God will be moving events toward His final judgment.
So does God "care" who wins the Super Bowl? Of course He does. Just not necessarily for the simple, carnal reasons we assume He might. Rather, just as "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose", we know that God works out His grand design in sparrows and in football games. Some small number of His purposes are evident to us immediately, but most are not, in the same way that few of a parent's purposes are evident to a small child.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!As for me, I plan to sit down and watch what I hope will be a great championship game. In other words, I will root my team in blissful ignorance of the eternal ramifications of a victory or defeat.
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?""Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?"
For from him and through him and for him are all things.To him be the glory forever! Amen.