Fighting for Faith in Football

In our morning worship services, my church has been working through a series titled “Day by Day.” The series deals with our daily walk in the Word and with the Lord. Today, our pastor mentioned a football player who is under fire because of his day by day walk.

The football player in question was penalized for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after throwing his hands up to praise God for a touchdown he had scored. Hearing about this incident reminded me of a similar story I heard earlier this week about a football coach who is being persecuted for praying at the 50-yard line after each game. It’s all too strange for me to think about.

You see, I’m a sports writer. Since I live and work in the “Bible Belt,” it would seem unusual to me if a team didn’t pray before or after a game. It would be even more unusual to see an official throw a flag because one of the players raised his hands to the Lord after making a touchdown. Maybe we’re just lucky. Maybe it’s just a matter of time.

It brings so much to light, hearing that Christian athletes are suffering because they choose to openly share their faith. It shows so much about the direction in which our government is turning. When did it become a problem for an individual to freely express their religious beliefs? When did it become “unsportsmanlike conduct” for someone to give glory to God?

I’m not so naive to think that every person in the stands is going to be a Christian. I do, however, understand that each person is allowed their freedom to choose what they believe in. I just question one thing: What happens when Freedom FROM Religion starts to overshadow our Freedom OF Religion?

When does a football coach who decides to have a conversation with the Lord after a game, or a quarterback who gives God the glory for his touchdown, interfere with another individual’s freedom? It doesn’t. However, when you ask that coach or that quarterback to stifle their praises, you’re taking away the very freedom they are guaranteed.

When did it become okay to stifle one person’s belief in order to support another person’s? Why is it so hard to accept that, to a born again Christian, God is a part of football?

In the movie Facing the Giants, coach Grant Taylor has a conversation with one of his players. The player asks, “So you think that God does care about football?” Coach Taylor replies, “I think He cares about your faith. He cares about where your heart is. And if you can live your faith out on the football field then yes, God cares about football because He cares about you.”

Asking someone not to live out their faith on the football field is the same as asking them not to live it out at all.

Though I can’t imagine covering a football game without seeing these acts of faith, I realize the extremely real possibility of that happening. It’s a giant we must prepare to face.

Second Peter says that there will be people who question the coming of the Lord. Peter warns that Christians will be scoffed at. “…there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

Christian athletes are given a platform that many others will never have. All eyes are on the players. A stadium full of people is being exposed to the testimony of each player on the field. When the players choose to glorify God, in front of everyone in attendance, it isn’t about “shoving a religion down throats.” It’s simply an act which affirms their relationship with the Savior.

I applaud this coach for standing firm in his faith. I also applaud this football player, and I pray he doesn’t allow the world to stifle his praises.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

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