Playing the Lord’s advocate

February 24, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, NFL News, Sports 

The football season ended three weeks ago with the playing of Super Bowl LII, but there is still a little bit of good news being made. This morning I came across a video that portrayed the Philadelphia Eagles and their faith. (I’d love to embed it, but I couldn’t figure out how.) Now you have likely seen the news about how certain Eagles players will skip the obligatory trip to the White House that major sports champions take after their title run, but it’s less likely that you have ran across the video describing the Eagles’ faith. (I will say, though, it did have 23 million views as of this morning.)

The video is a production of the Independent Journal Review (IJR), which is an interesting animal in and of itself: this video was promoted by the Red division of IJR, which leans toward the conservative side of the spectrum. In looking for a place to embed the video I found out they have a Blue division that presumably slants toward the Left, and a News division that I guess reports news.

But I wanted to make a different point, and the focus on who is skipping the trip and why actually helps in that regard.

During the off-season, and at times within the midweek that NFL teams are practicing for their next Sunday’s game, the focus often shifts to a player’s off-field behavior. Not too long ago Marlon Humphrey, a player from the Baltimore Ravens, was arrested for robbery – an incident which his attorney claimed was a misunderstanding over a phone charger. You hear much less often about the player who donates his down time and money to charitable causes, is faithful to his wife and family, and has a good relationship with the Lord. Obviously some of this is by design on the player’s part since we’re exhorted to be humble servants of the Lord, but we’re also charged with doing our part to share the Gospel, too.

Yet in terms of media coverage, it’s not enough of a “man bites dog” story to talk about a Carson Wentz, who ministers to fellow players and churchgoers. (A similar Eagles player who comes to mind is the late Reggie White, who was dubbed “the Minister of Defense” because he was one.) But here was the evidence, in front of tens of millions of Americans on live television, that there are successful people who give all credit for their success to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a refreshing change.

So contrast this with that same network and their media coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics – in fact, let’s extend the comparison to USA Olympic media coverage in general. Who have we heard the most about: our gold-medal winning athletes (including the USA curling team, believe it or not!) or the 10th-place figure skater whose biggest claim to fame is an attraction he has to other men? We have dozens of other athletes who gave it their all only to be also-rans but no one is pursuing their stories.

We live in an upside-down world where things that are of this earth are portrayed as good and things we should strive for are demeaned. So these Eagles who proclaim their faith publicly are going to walk around with targets on their back – not just from the other 31 NFL teams who are itching to dethrone the champions, but the culture at large who will call them hypocrites if they make one wrong move – and as sinners who fall short of the glory of God, it’s certain they will. Just look at the criticism Tim Tebow endured in his NFL career and continues to weather as a 30-year-old minor league baseball player trying to get to The Show. (Granted, a .226 average isn’t a lot to write home about, but that’s about what Orioles prospect D.J. Stewart hit in his first full season equivalent – 2015 with short-season Aberdeen and the first half of 2016 with Delmarva – and now he’s a non-roster invitee to the Orioles camp just as Tebow is for the Mets.)

But the video was inspiring to me, and I’m hoping these Eagles continue their off-field success in the game of life.

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