The presence of God in sports is one that I’ve talked about recently, so it is interesting to see a story like this hit the news cycle.
Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson dropped a sure touchdown pass that would have won the game for his team. Anyone would be frustrated by that, but he took his frustration out on God by tweeting:
I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…
The tongue-in-cheek responses that I’ve been hearing and reading indicate that this is a good thing. Stuff Christians Like (which is a light hearted Christian blog) explains:
I thought it was refreshing to see a player talk about God even when he lost. Everyone gives God a shout out when they win the game. People who haven’t been to a church or prayed in years will throw a finger to the sky in honor of the man upstairs, but for once someone brought up God after the game.
Now, I like SCL and find the blog humorous, and I know he’s just trying to make light of the situation (he also jokes that obviously God hates the Bills). But still. I don’t like this take at all. Thankfully he follows that quote up with the following:
Granted, I wish instead he said, “God is in control. Win or lose, it’s his game and his world, so he gets to do what he wants to do.”
Obviously that is the better response – though it will get a lot less attention on the talk show circuit.
The whole issue of athlete’s praising God after games sometimes makes me uncomfortable. You never know who is a devout believer and who is just posing and using the Lord’s name (essentially) in vain. You could argue that any publicity is good publicity, but I don’t think God works that way – or ever did. Even though Jesus attracted great crowds, the biggest influence he made was on the relationships he developed around him.
Also, when players praise God for a victory, it sometimes sends a mixed message. In one sense, the Lord gave them the ability, opportunity, and perhaps even the circumstances to win the game because of his divine will. So I suppose he is rightly praised for wins. But does he really care who wins? Would God ever become a fan of a team and pull for them? Highly doubtful – even if the team is full of Christians, I think God would be much more concerned about each individual’s life than their performance.
On the flipside, the danger of blaming God for a loss is best explained by Erik Raymond of “Ordinary Pastor”
This is not Christianity but Legal-anity. Johnson is appealing to his own righteousness (works, merit, duty, etc) as a basis for God to bless him. This lack of blessing in his life (ie a dropped pass) is a problem because of his religious capital that he has earned. In other words, “You are supposed to bless me because I keep all the rules, I do what I’m supposed to! God, YOU OWE ME!”
This is the exact opposite of Christianity.
Well said. God doesn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t bless us out of obligation. If we do something that pleases him, he may bless us for it, or he may wait for another opportunity. Sometimes he blesses us in ways that we don’t see or don’t understand. But the bottom line is that his ways are above our ways and they cannot be trivialized into the confines of a football game.
In short, God may have ordained that the Saints would win the Super Bowl, but not because they are indeed Saints that “deserve” it. It just happened to fit into his grander scheme that we could never fully grasp.