Two songs came on my iPod today that made me joyous – and they have nothing in common.

After a less-than-exciting economics course, I was just trying to make it through another busy day. Then, “Something Beautiful” by Needtobreathe came on.

During a 10-minute class change, I had a moment of spiritual realization: I didn’t need to fear life’s troubles. Jesus was by my side. I beamed with joy while walking past the Student Center.

I was walking nearly the same path two hours later when “The Fighter” by Gym Class Heroes came on.

I had just watched AC Milan stun the best football team in the world at The Shack, and the song seemed to fit.

“Until the crowd goes home, what we gonna do ya’ll? Give ‘em hell, turn their heads,” the song says.

I sang along under my breath, feeling giddy. I wanted to be AC Milan, giving teams hell and turning fans’ heads.

Then I realized that this was a problem.

The mentality of “The Fighter” says to pull yourself up by you by your bootstraps –  be strong, fight and make people notice you.

Jesus says just the opposite.

Jesus says, rely on me, fight in the strength that I give you, and make people notice God.

And yet, Christians buy into the culture of sports and “The Fighter.” We worship our favorite teams and make our favorite players out to be idols. 

I am the worst about this.

I have a passion for sports. This, in itself, I don’t believe to be wrong. What’s wrong is buying into sports culture, as I so often do.

It is a culture where players point to the name on the back of their jerseys.

“Look at me,” they say. “Look at what I just did.”

Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.

Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.

And we fans worship them. But we shouldn’t. Everything they do is through the gifts that God has given them. They do not deserve our praise.

When the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl on February 3, the world saw Psalms 91 written across Ray Lewis’ chest. This was a fine example of an athlete turning his personal glory to God.

However, I have to call Lewis out on his well-known pregame routine. He dances in the smoke as Ravens fans worship him. He loves the attention, the spotlight. He feeds off of it.

He wants people to cheer him on; he wants personal glory.

Tim Tebow, another NFL player who gets enormous amounts of attention, does nothing that points to what is on the back of his jersey. “Tebow-ing” is Tim Tebow praying.

And while I know that he is not that great of a football player, I think he gets how to believe in Christ and be an athlete. He seems to rely on God, fight in His strength and bring Him glory.

I’m sure it’s tough for him, and I’m sure he fails often. But he seems to realize that the normal sports culture is the opposite of the way that God wants us to live our lives. It is not harmless to hold the mentality of “The Fighter.”

Vince Lombardi said, “Gentlemen, we will be successful this year, if you can focus on three things, and three things only: Your family, your religion, and the Green Bay Packers.”

Often, I try to live my life this way, substituting “friends and family” for “family’” and “sports” for “the Green Bay Packers.”

What I realized today is that sometimes my focus on sports can get in the way of my religion.

It can get in the way of my search for something beautiful .

3 Comments

  1. Jacob, thanks for the reflection. 1 agree, 1 disagree. Yes, typical American sports culture is not always consistent with what Jesus teaches and exemplifies. But I don’t think Lewis’ and Tebow’s surface-level religiosity (Bible verses on a sign, prayer as self-publicity) match Jesus any better. Jesus called his followers to pray in secret and not in public, for show. Lewis and Tebow give off the vibe of “look at me, at how good a Christian I am, because I use my public platform to show off my Bible knowledge or spiritual maturity.”

  2. Jacob Steimer

    I’m sorry, but I do not see Tim Tebow’s prayers as self publicity at all. I see them as something he does on the sideline that became a fad across the country. I honestly think that Tebow is trying his best to bring God glory. Nothing he does, to me, comes off in a way that he is doing it for show. He uses his public platform to point to God whenever he can. I think he gets it.

  3. Kris Katarian

    When Tim Tebow signed with the New York Jets, he was the subject of photo shoots while not wearing a shirt, calling attention to his muscular torso. He also signed a contract with the Jockey underwear company. Along with the Tebowing, my conclusion is that he is just another attention seeker as is Ray Lewis.

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