While you’re watching the Super Bowl this Sunday, remind yourself of this deep theological truth:
God cares who wins the Super Bowl.
In fact, God cares deeply about every player on both teams. God cares about both teams’ coaches, trainers, equipment managers, doctors, owners, and cheerleaders. God cares about the referees. In short, God cares. He cares more passionately than anyone on the field, or on the sidelines, or watching at home or at the sports bar.
If something matters to the people on the field, or on the sidelines, or watching at home or at the sports bar, it matters to God.
Granted, many Christians resist this idea. Like Mark Sandlin, a blogger for Sojourners magazine. Just last week, in his list of 10 things Christians shouldn’t say, he complained about Christians who said that they “must be living right” when, for example, they find a desirable parking spot near the entrance of a store (although I’ve never heard someone say this in a sincere way).
These are the same folks who ask God to help them win sporting events. I hate to burst the bubble, but God doesn’t care which team wins…
Really? God doesn’t care? Then I would ask Sandlin if God cares about the job he’s doing at Sojourners, or if God cares whether or not Sojourners exists at all. Why would that matter to God? Sojourners magazine isn’t curing cancer, putting an end to malaria, or solving the crisis in South Sudan. Why should God care about something so trivial as a blog post? Or even someone who makes his living by writing things like blog posts?
So here are these NFL players, pouring their hearts, minds, energy, and skill into this job they do, which they will soon be doing on the most prominent stage on the planet—and literally risking their health and wellbeing while doing it. But God doesn’t care?
You see my point: It’s almost as if we’re saying, “God is too big to be concerned with things like Super Bowls as long as children are starving in North Korea.” But saying that God is “too big” is just another way of saying God is too small: as if every moment God spends helping Peyton Manning convert a third-and-long is one less moment that God has to devote to the non-trivial problems of the world.
As if God isn’t sustaining all of Creation into existence at this moment! As if God isn’t more intimately involved in the minutest details of Marshawn Lynch’s training regimen than Lynch could ever be himself!
The Deists were wrong, remember?
Our God isn’t the great watchmaker in the sky who set the universe in motion and then went to sleep. We Christians believe in a God who is both transcendent (above and beyond this world of time an space) and immanent (closer to us than we are to ourselves). That means that God isn’t one thing among other things in the universe: he is entirely other. Therefore, no one is competing for God’s attention. He can hear and respond to everyone’s prayers—no matter how big or small.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to William Lane Craig. He’s one of the smartest Christians I know, a world-class philosopher and one of the foremost Christian apologists. Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, Christianity Today asked Craig about God and football. I recommend the whole interview but here are some interesting excerpts:
Recent polls have found at least a quarter of Americans pray for sports teams, and that number is even higher among evangelicals. As a theologian, what do these stats tell you?
I think it shows how deeply committed they are to their teams that they would feel compelled to pray about it! In fact, it’s almost irresistible for someone who is on a team to pray that God would help him to do a good job and to win and to prevail. I don’t think that there’s anything the matter with that type of prayer, so long as one adds the caveat, nevertheless “not my will, but thy will be done.”…
Peyton Manning is a Christian, but he says he doesn’t pray to win games. He said, “I pray to keep both teams injury free, and personally, that I use whatever talent I have to the best of my ability.” Is it wrong or should we feel bad for praying for a win?
No, I think it’s fine for Christian athletes to pray about those things so long as they understand, as I say, that the person on the other team is also praying, and that some of these prayers will go unanswered in the providence of God. Ultimately, one is submitting oneself to God’s providence, but I see nothing the matter with praying for the outcome of these things. They’re not a matter of indifference to God. God cares about these little things, so it’s appropriate…
As football fans prepare for the big game, what thought would you want to leave them with?
I think the overriding thing I want to say is God’s providence rules all of life, even down to the smallest details. Nothing happens without either God’s direct will or at least his permission of that event. That includes every fumble, every catch, every run. All of these things are in the providence of God, and therefore, we should not think that these things are a matter of indifference. These are of importance to God as well even though they seem trivial.