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The theology of NFL football

FootballRay LewisBaltimore RavensSuper BowlNFLSan Francisco 49ers

"It's simple," said Ray Lewis, quoting Romans 8:31 after his team's Super Bowl win: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Yet even though I am pleased by the Ravens' victory, doesn't God love the 49ers just as much? Weren't some of their players also praying for victory? Can we imagine that the Lord of the universe stoops to manipulating the fortunes of NFL teams? Can He possibly care about football at all?

No one's theology should be judged by a handful of "newsworthy" sound bites. There is plenty of evidence that Mr. Lewis' faith is more than just talk. And he would be the first to say that God loves us all and stands ready to aid everyone who calls upon Him in spirit and truth. If a San Francisco player had been seriously injured in the game, does anyone doubt that Ray would have been the first one on his knees to pray for that man?

So there is more than tribalism on display here. And as for child-like faith, Jesus is clear that it is no bad thing (Matthew 18:3). Precisely because He cares so passionately about each of us, God cares about the things that concern us, whether it's a puppy, nuclear physics or football. Being God, He does not have to care any less about hungry children because He also cares for football players.

A fine article I just read by Yahoo sports reporter Michael Silver reveals that Mr. Lewis believes the love his teammates have for each other was the decisive factor in their victories. This is sound theology — wherever real love exists, whether in families, workplaces, or sports teams, we will find God has been at work.

True victory in life is to be judged by the quality of our relationships with God and with one another, regardless of the scoreboard. But since love is what we were made for, its practice (or the lack of it) does affect outcomes. I have seen this principle at work in the Church over many years of ministry.

There is yet another lesson we can learn from Ray's team: If we persist in asking God to display His presence and power in our lives, He may indeed show up. Given the very real love in the Ravens' locker room, not to mention their perceived chances of winning the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, I suspect He did.

Charlie Scott, Spokane, Wash.

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    FootballRay LewisBaltimore RavensSuper BowlNFLSan Francisco 49ers
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