Settle Down, Sport

Earlier this week the Atlanta Falcons played the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. In an absolute shocker to the experts on ESPN, the Falcons won. For once, I was proud of my favorite team.

I had a blast watching the game, not just because of the outcome but also because of my conversations with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

There were jabs from my friend Shane, who would cheer for the Taliban if Peyton Manning was their quarterback.

There were the usual shots from my friend Stormy, a guy who finds the most evil team in any particular sport and makes them his favorite.  He would cheer for the Taliban even without Peyton Manning.

And my friends Dave and Jamie who, although they didn’t have a dog in the fight, were just enjoying a good game.

During a big game like this, there’s always another group of people who are using social media. These are the people who are appalled that NFL fans paint their faces and carry signs to games but do not paint their faces and carry signs to church.

Their status updates read something like this.

Donnie Dravecky When’s the last time you gave someone a high five at church? Oh, but you’ll do it over a field goal?!!!!  SMH

Patricia Sullingham I’ll bet 80,000 people wouldn’t show up for a church service on Monday night.  :\

There’s no doubt that sports is an idol in our culture.  People spend too much money on it, athletes are worshiped and kids are brought up believing the false gospel of sports that says a scholarship will bring salvation. I get that things are out of whack. But is it just sports? Isn’t family, or even church an idol for some people too?  While we’re blowing up sports, should we aim our social network nuclear arsenal at those two institutions as well?

Patty Samson Donaldson Oh, so you’re taking pictures of our food again. And I see you had chicken. If only we would feast on the Scriptures instead of fowl.

TaylorAnd Trevor Thornbury So you had fun at the park with your kids, huh? Well, while you were playing Christians were being persecuted. But have fun.

Instead of using nukes, Jesus used a scalpel.

In John 12, Jesus is enjoying a meal with friends. His friend Martha was doing her usual serving while Lazarus was sitting with Jesus. Another friend, Mary, did something crazy.  She took some really expensive ointment and used it to clean Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ disciples were there and one of them responded in a way that, on the surface, seemed very missional.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  John 12:4-5 (ESV)

“Yeah,” we might have tweeted along with Judas, “doesn’t she realize how many mouths she could have fed if she sold that stuff instead of pouring it all over the floor?”

SMH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙁

But John clues us in on the motive behind Judas’ attack.

He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:6 (ESV)

Judas didn’t care about the poor and he wasn’t being missional.  He was trying to cover up his own sins by accusing Mary.  The same thing can happen when we use big sporting events as our own personal platform for reminding people of how much they don’t love Jesus.  But where does it all end?  How many people went to hell in the time it took to tweet, “How many people went to hell during that last touch down?”  And why even bother with Facebook and Twitter anyway?  Shouldn’t the Internet just be used to watch Billy Graham clips on YouTube?

Jesus, with scalpel in hand, tells Judas to back off by digging beneath the surface to the source of the problem.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”  John 12:7-8 (ESV)

Jesus knew that there was more to the story than perfume, money and the poor.  He knew that Mary was worshiping him. And he knew that it is possible to talk a good game about helping the poor and still not worship him.

We can try as hard as we want to remove idols but unless we’re replacing them by worshiping Jesus they will simply sprout back up in a different form. This is why Paul tells us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5) as well as telling us to, “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:10). And then he tells us, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If you’re not a football fan, have a great weekend doing what you do and do it for the glory of God.

If you are a football fan, enjoy this weekend’s games for the glory of God.

Unless, of course, you plan on cheering for Denver.

This post was originally written on September 20, 2012. It was updated on August 29, 2013.