worshiping an idol

Category : faith

I struggle with football because I love it so much.  There are few things (maybe nothing) that I get more excited about than football.  I’m so passionate that I physically feel the anguish with the Steelers lose.  Which they did this weekend.  I’ve wondered if loving football is a sin.

And I think for me, at least, football is a sin.  Not because football itself is evil.  But because I worship football.  It’s my own personal idol.

That’s not something you hear a lot of people say.  But I realize that my emotions are too tied up in a game.  I live and die (thankfully just metaphorically!) by the Steelers.  And whether I mean to or not, I’ve come to believe that a great Steelers victory can make me happy.

It can’t.

Nothing can make you happy, truly happy, in this world apart from God.  That’s why I take solace in what Martin Luther once said about overcoming guilt.

“It all depends on this great and grand miracle, that I believe that God gave His Son for us. If I do not doubt this, then I am able to say in the midst of my trials: ‘I concede, devil, that I am a sinner burdened with the old Adam and subject to the wrath of God. But what do you, devil, say about this: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that all who believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life? These words I believe!’”

–Martin Luther

God is the one who saves us.  Who gives us happiness.  Who makes us complete.  Football may be the greatest sport ever invented, but it pales in comparison to what God offers.

Is football a sin?

Category : faith

I love football.  I get fired up on game day.  I’m never more emotional, excited, scared, and pumped up than during a Steelers game.  During each game, like millions of fans around the world, I feel the pain and thrill of loving an NFL team.

I’m lucky because I’m a Steelers fan.  Depending on the outcome of the game this weekend the Steelers may well be on their way to their 8th Super Bowl appearance (and hopefully 7th win!).  Not something many fans can enjoy.

But when I watch football there is a nagging question in the back of my mind.  It’s a question I don’t like.  It’s a question I’d rather not ask.  But deep down it’s a question I must ask: is football a sin?

I’m not talking about the violence or the cheating or the cheerleaders.  I’m not talking about the money or the fame or the trash talk.  What I’m talking about is my emotional involvement with football.

Why is it when the Steelers lose I’m in a bad mood for a week?  Why is it when I think back to previous seasons that ended in a playoff loss do I feel a pit in my stomach and hatred in my heart?  (I’m looking at you Neil O’Donnell.)

I think about this every time I watch football.

Why is it that I’m more fired up about football than my relationship with God?  Why do I block out 4 hours every Sunday for Steelers football, but not for church?  Why is it that I’m more excited by a last minute touchdown than the thought of feeding the hungry or curing the sick?

I’m not always like that.  In fact I’m involved in a lot of different things at my church.  Things I really care about.  Things I sacrifice for.  But none of those really come close to the thrill of a Steelers victory.

And I don’t think I like that anymore.

is it okay to question God?

Category : God, choice, faith

If you follow football at all, you’ve already heard about the “drop heard around the world.”  During last week’s Steelers – Bills game, Stevie Johnson, dropped a sure touchdown for the Bills.  In fact, it would have dramatically won the game in over time.  In all my years of watching football, rarely have I seen a wide receiver drop such a sure catch.

Immediately after the game, I heard both journalists and Steelers players give the usual it was a “miracle” talk.  And say things like, “God helped us”.  Maybe that’s true.  I have no idea.  I’m not really sure how often God gets involved in football.  (Although I certainly don’t mind if he’s a Steelers fan.)

After the game the Bills receiver (Johnson) had a different reaction.  He tweeted, “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!!  AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…”

That tweet immediately went around the internets, and turned up in stories headlined things like “Bills receiver blames God for drop.

But that’s not how I see it.  (And I’m not sure that’s how Stevie Johnson would see it.)  I don’t even see him blaming God at all.  I see a young guy (24) who is really questioning his faith.  When I was 24 I was a hard-core atheist.  So it seems to me that Johnson has a bit over me when I was his age.

People who don’t believe in God love these stories because it “proves” God doesn’t exist.  At the same time Christians who fear undermining God hate these stories because it seems to question God’s goodness.

Which means that it’s a perfect storm to get news headlines.

But for me it reminds me of my own experiences with God.  As I said, when I was 24 I didn’t believe in God.  Not long after I began to question everything about God and my life.  It was out of that immense pain and suffering that I turned to him, realizing he was the only thing complete enough to heal me.  That’s what I hear in that tweet.  Someone who is just looking for how God can be loving, but at the same time let such painful things happen to us.

In the end, I don’t mind Stevie Johnson’s comments, whether he blames God or not.  I think honest searching for answers always brings us closer to God.  Which is what he wants in the first place!  So my prayer is that Johnson does learn from his drop and let’s God redeem this experience.  I don’t know how.  But God’s a master at redeeming things.  And that’s enough for me.  I hope it’s enough for Johnson.

football as an idol

Category : barbarian, choice, faith, living a life of faith, taking action


I love football.  That’s pretty obvious if you’ve spent any time rummaging around R3 or ever glance at my twitter feed.  It’s in pretty much every conversation I have from August to February.  Yet I’ve noticed a problem – I can be obsessed.  I love football so much that a loss by the Steelers can derail my entire week.  I can be in a bad mood just because of one bad play.

And you know what?  I hate it.  I hate that football has that much impact on me.  It’s just a game.  But in my heart I know I often treat it as more than just a game.  Sometimes I tell myself, “don’t get so worked up”  However I can’t escape the fact that if football doesn’t have much of an impact on me, it’s not really worth watching, is it?

So I am caught in this love-hate relationship with the greatest game ever devised.

Here’s the thing though, the closer I get to God, the more I dislike these things in my life.  I don’t want anything to impact my mood except God.  I want him to be the center of who I am, not whether the Steelers win or lose.

Over the last year or two I’ve made great progress with having football as an idol.  I’ve learned to let a lot of frustration go and just enjoy the game for what it is – a game.  But at the same time, in the moment I have yet to fully control that emotion.  Now I don’t believe that God cares if I get excited about football or not.  But I do believe he cares about the way I project my relationship with him.  I can hardly call myself a Christian if I go off on someone because the Steelers lose.  That’s not exactly Christ-like behavior.

To me, football is an idol.  And that’s something I need to wrestle with each week.

Idols are dangerous.  They seep into our lives.  Stealing much of the joy in life with promises of a “better” or more “exciting” life.  Those are lies though because they seem so believable.  But they are lies none the less.  Only God provides true freedom and true  life.  Everything else is just a shallow imitation.

Even football.