A friend of mine recently made this comment, “Around here football is a religion!” At first his words sounded like an innocent declaration of the passion and allegiance many of us have for our favorite teams. But after a little reflection, his words seemed to burn a hole in my conscience. Is football our religion?
God adamantly warned His people of the dangers of idolatry (Ex 20:3-6). Their passion for false gods eventually led to their earthly captivity as well as separation from God (Ezek 20:1-32). We may not have wooden figurines on the mantels of our homes, but that does not mean we may not have our idols.
So, how do we know when we may have crossed the line from sport to idolatry? Please consider the following “what if” scenarios:
• What if we gave as much money to evangelism and charity as we do to tickets, travel and team merchandise? Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:25).
• What if we could name the apostles, judges, and great heroes of faith like we can name our team’s starting lineup, reserves, and even recruits? “Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom 15:4).
• What if fathers taught their children about the Lord and His works as much as they do about defensive formations or strategies of an offensive? “Fathers bring your children up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
• What if we proudly displayed our love for the Lord as we do our team’s logos from our homes and cars? “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles and let all the peoples extol Him” (Rom 15:11).
• What if we arrived early and participated in a worship service with the same dedication we have for crowded football stadiums with limited parking, little legroom and no protection from inclement weather? “For I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psa 122:1).
• What if we hated Satan and His schemes to conquer souls as much as we do a rival who is threatening to take a game from us? “Be sober because your adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8).
• What if the joy of winning souls and the pain of losing souls matched our passion for winning and losing a football game of which we are not even a participant? “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents’” (Lk 15:10).
There is nothing inherently sinful about cheering for a favorite team and enjoying a game. However, sports must not take precedence over our duties and responsibilities to the Lord.
The only victory that truly counts has already been won. Jesus conquered death so that we may live in Him (Rom 5:8; 6:3-7). Allow Him to cloth you with His atoning garments (Gal 3:27; Rev 7:14) and join His team in fighting against our true enemy (Eph 6:10-16).