Christianity is football

By Edwin Crayton/Opinion

Tackles: There’s one thing in particular that I admire about football players. They expect to be hit. They take the hit. They get up. They try again. Most of us would even find it laughable if a player were to quit the game after being tackled the first time. Football players prepare for these attacks by training; by wearing protective gear, by mentally accepting that being hit over and over while trying to reach a goal is just part of the game. If you are going to be a Christian, you will need to also accept that you will be attacked no matter what you do, or how loving or tolerant you are. In 2 Timothy 3:12 we are told that everyone who tries to live godly in Christ will be persecuted. However, God tells us how to prepare for this in the Bible. Read Ephesians 6:11-12. When we accept that being attacked or tackled is just part of what it takes to be a Christian, it enables us to be used by God and be a blessing to other people and to the kingdom of God. As for the hits, helmets and pads protect football players. God protects faithful Christians who obey him.

Goals: Every football game is about reaching a goal: the end zone. Likewise, the Christian walk is about reaching a goal: heaven. Players celebrate being able to make it into the end zone. In the same way, believers will celebrate when reaching heaven. But true believers don’t want to score alone. They want to take as many people as possible with them to heaven (Matthew 28:19-20).
Passing the ball: Football players pass the ball by either handing it off or throwing it to a teammate. Similarly, we Christians are told to pass on the Word of God to our children (Proverbs 22:6) and to others who don’t believe in God, so that they will know what it takes to be saved, or reach heaven. When Christians witness to friends, family and the broader society, the world becomes a better planet for everyone. Knowing God gives people hope and helps them through the despairing events of this life. On the other hand, when Christians refuse to witness, or are lazy about telling others about Christ, the world becomes a much darker place. Sin thrives faster when there is no opposition. More and more people become oppressed and depressed. Things begin to spiral downward. When you hear people complain about moral decline in society, ask them if they take time out from their busy schedules to witness or make themselves available to be used by God. I believe you will find that many will say no. There is a real correlation between how bad the word is and our failure to share Christ. The Ethiopian official put it bluntly when he told Philip, “How can I know unless someone shows me?” (Acts Chapter 8).

The Opposing Team: Football teams have opponents. We Christians have a vicious and persistent opponent—Satan– who wants to stop us from serving God. His team is made up of misguided people who are out of relationship with God. (Sometimes, quite honestly, that is all of us.) Satan’s team is skilled in the ways of this world. They look beautiful and sound intelligent. Their goal, under his guidance is to deceive every living person into disobeying God. His goal is to have people reject Jesus so they will be damned to eternity in hell. That is why, if you will observe, many popular trends tend to oppose biblical teachings. But they are not winners. They will lose ultimately. Scripture makes it clear that unfortunately, nonbelievers are not saved (John 3:18, John 14:6). It also makes it clear that no one can defeat God or his followers. Romans 8:31 teaches, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Who indeed.

Studying the plays: Players must study the plays. Christians must study too. The Bible clearly advises us to “study to show yourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15). Our playbook is the Holy Bible. It tells about God’s plan of salvation. He is so loving, he wants everyone to have an opportunity to either reject or accept salvation. The Bible helps us deal with life’s struggles and overcome its challenges and receive God’s blessings. Yet over 60% of people who claim Christ do not read it. Can you imagine what would happen if 60% of football players refused to study the plays or even read them, before going into games? What confusion that would cause. You cannot execute a play you have never read. You cannot execute God’s plans or benefit from his gracious will if you will not read what he requires of you.
The coach is the one who leads the team: Winning teams have good leadership. The coach is the leader who is paid to lead the team strategically and motivate them to perform at their highest possible level. The coach must be respected and players must follow and execute the coach’s vision for the team. Players who rebel are rightfully benched. Actually, it is supposed to work that way in Christianity too. But many individuals who claim Christ as well as many churches ignore the directions given by the coach—God. They toss his and go by their own moral concepts. They specifically ignore God’s playbook—the Bible. Indeed, they even run plays the coach has told them not to execute. For instance, the Bible says sex before marriage is a sin. (1 Corinthians Chapter 6) Yet, some members have sex before marriage, Other members believe it is alright for a woman to have an abortion because they say it is her body. But the Bible disagrees with that line of thinking when it says a believer’s body belongs to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Some churches even install gay pastors although the both the Old and New Testament say homosexuality is a sin (Romans Chapter 1, Leviticus 18:22). Imagine what would happen if the coach called a team meeting and no one showed up or only half the team showed up? Yet, churches are often half empty on many Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights (Hebrews 10:25-26). A headline from a 2021 Gallup Research study punctuated this. It said, “”US Church Attendance dips below majority for the first time.” Good teams however, follow their coach, study the plays, show up for practice and team meetings, and win, win, win. Works that way for Christians too.

Unfortunately, there are some ways in which Christianity is not like football. For example, football fans are so passionate about the game, they will sit in freezing cold or snow to watch a game. By contrast, many church members will refuse to go to church simply because it is drizzling outside. Disrespect someone’s favorite football team and you may find yourself the recipient of a punch in the nose. Yet, Christians watch TV shows and Hollywood movies that ridicule Jesus and the Christian faith. On many Sundays, it is not uncommon for football fans to fill up a stadium with thousands of fans. But churches struggle to fill up half a sanctuary built to seat 200. The irony is, that many of these passionate football fans and these lukewarm Christians are the same people.

What would happen if Christians individuals and churches had such passion for God and the things of God? Would we have so many poor amongst us? Would there be so much hatred, sexism racism or classism? Would there be so much ignorance about what is ethical or morally correct? Would we have better leaders because we ourselves would grow spiritually and leaders come from amongst us. Right? Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying people should not feel as passionate about football as they do. What I am asking is, why shouldn’t we have that kind of passion about God?

Community notes: The Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation will hold its first quarterly meeting of the year, January 10, 2023, at 7pm at First Baptist Church, 1116 Amulet. This meeting is open to the public.