Sunday, February 6, 2011

Does God care about the Super Bowl?

Tonight, hundreds of millions will watch the Super Bowl. (My prediction: Green Bay spreads out the Pittsburgh defense, using short, high-percentage passes to nullify the Steelers' blitzes, and wins in an exciting game, 31-24.) Anyway, after it is over, the winning team will stand at their trophy presentation. Someone being interviewed will say, "First, I just want to thank God." And people around American will yawn or roll their eyes or (as Bob Costas famously did a few years ago) make snide comments, "Doesn't God have something better to do than help someone catch passes?"

The question that they are really asking -- and it is an interesting one -- is, "Does God care about the outcome of the Super Bowl?" The answer is no, and yes.

The best way I can answer this is to start with an analogy. My children love those Trio blocks. So for Christmas, my son got a castle with a lion banner (the "lion castle", as he calls it). Last year, he got an Imaginext castle with a dragon on it (the "dragon castle"). Shortly after Christmas he set up a massive battle in his room. On the one side were the good guys in the lion castle--they included knights in shining armor, Batman, a few Jedi action figures, and an F-16. On the other side was the dragon knights, the Joker, the Penguin, storm troopers, an AT-AT, and a dragon. Needless to say, this was going to be an impressive battle.

So my two children sat there and played out this battle, while I watched from the bed. The game lasted a couple of hours--probably the longest I've seen them sit in one place and play the same game ever. They were engaged, they were using their imaginations, they were playing excitedly with basically every action figure they owned. Eventually the lion army won (turns out, Batman had bombs all along and waited till the end to use them). When it was over, my son ran up to me, gave me a huge hug, and said, "Thanks, daddy. I love you."

Now, did I care which army won? Of course not. But do you know what I did care about? What I did love? I cared that my sons played well together, cooperating instead of fighting. I enjoyed seeing them use their imaginations. I reveled in their joys. And most of all, I liked that my son thanked me -- that he knew that his joy was due to my gift-giving, and he wanted me to know his appreciation and his love for that gift.

And that, my friends, is how I think God watches the Super Bowl.

Does He care if the Packers or Steelers add to their trophy case? Of course not. (And He probably doesn't much like the near-idolatry of the game in America, either.) Like I wrote a few weeks ago -- God cares about the means, not the ends.

The final score does not interest Him. But what does interest Him is to see His people on each team making sacrifices of themselves for the greater good of other people. He loves seeing the courage and self-discipline that they require to get to this point. He loves seeing His people use the talents He gave them to their greatest ability, "running the race well". And not just those on the field, either. When Christians come together to fellowship around the game, all around the globe...God loves that. He loves seeing His people together. He is overjoyed at the pride in their work that others take, too: the people who make the footballs for the Super Bowl, the crew that painted the names in the grass, the producers choosing which camera to use, the cameramen using their talents with focus and determination to ensure that they do not miss an important play.

God doesn't care about the outcome, but He most definitely cares about the Super Bowl. It may be just as silly as my son's Trio-block battle after Christmas in his room, but God loves to see us fellowship, He loves to see us use our talents at their greatest, and He loves to see us have joy.

And do you know what else? He loves to hear us tell Him thanks. When someone stands up on stage after a Super Bowl and thanks God, they are thanking Him for so much--for their skills, for their opportunities, for their lives, for encouragement and peace when the chips are down. They are thanking Him for letting them have the opportunity to find such joy in this life. And they should. And, as a father, I know how much my heart swells to hear my children sincerely thank me...I am confident God is just as excited.

Does God manipulate the outcome? I highly doubt it. I doubt that God's will for this world involves whether Santonio made his catch or Elway's spinning dive. But what He does care about is that Santonio used his skills and focus, that Elway demonstrated his courage and passion. Those are the things that make a parent happy. Those are things from which He gets joy.

So enjoy the Super Bowl. Engage in it. Fellowship with other believers during it. And when it is done, tell God, "Thanks for this. Thanks for the country that I live in, and for talented men whose games are a welcome and entertaining distraction. Thanks for the good fellowship today. I love you, God."

And...go, Pack.

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