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Digitized Discipleship

It's What God Wants

Posted by The Reverend Andrew Van Kirk on with 1 Comments

Last week I watched the 2017 College Football championship. It was a great game; Clemson won in thrilling fashion in the final seconds. And then, in the immediate wake of the rush of victory, came the post-game interviews.

First up, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Of their victory, he said, “I’m speechless man…It’s what God want.” The next interview was of Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney, who said: “Only God could have done this.”

Now Alabama was a really good team, but to claim that only God could have beaten Nick Saban seems to be giving The Sabanator (aka: Nick Satan and The Nicktator) a little too much credit. Also, it’s not clear from the gospels that Jesus would have been particularly good at football.

Now I’m a priest, and I’m generally excited for God to be brought into the public conversation. But doesn’t this sort of language about God’s will and activity raise some questions about God.

Notre Dame fans and Touchdown Jesus

  • Why is God so concerned with Clemson football? 
  • Why not Notre Dame (seriously, look at that photo -- how is that not God's favorite team)? 
  • Couldn’t God have spent a little less time on football this winter, and maybe a little more time on say, Aleppo?

We’d best be careful. It’s actually too easy to make fun of this sort of talk about God. Sure, we can imagine bigger problems for God to deal with than the outcome of a football game. But if God doesn’t have time for national championship football, especially time to care for the players and coaches directly involved, it’s unclear when he’d really have time for us and the things we’re involved in either. Do we really mean to say that unless there is an Aleppo sized problem, God doesn’t care?

So as tempting as it is to take post-game comments about God with a hearty, “Come on, man,” we’d be better off to remember three things.

First, these are men at the pinnacle of success, at the very moment they’ve reached the summit, trying to deflect the attention and accolades from themselves and onto God. They may not always be precise in their theological articulation, but we should cheer the effort. Would that we all were so ready to give God credit for our success.

Second, God doesn’t have limited bandwidth. When it comes to the world, God has an unlimited plan. Believe it or not, God can care about Aleppo and your sick dog at the same time. Actually, forget I don’t really mean “believe it or not,” just believe it. The biggest reason we can’t imagine God caring about football and Aleppo has to do with us. When we were watching the football game, we weren’t caring about Aleppo at all. But that’s our problem, not God’s.

Third, and this is the hardest to get right, it was certainly within the will of God for Clemson to win, and in that sense it was what God wanted. But that doesn’t mean God wanted Clemson to beat Alabama the way Clemson fans wanted Clemson to beat Alabama. God doesn’t cheer for one side over the other; nor is he playing both sides of the chessboard to make sure that his team wins.

God is actually big enough to root fully for both the eventual losers and the winners — in football or in any other area of life. And I do not mean that God is some over excited YMCA sports director at a four-year old soccer game — but rather that God truly and completely wants fullness and life for everyone.

God doesn’t have favorite teams, or tribes, or nations, or any of the other groups we use to shape our identity. God has people — Clemson players and coaches, Alabama players and coaches, priests, and people like you — people whom he loves very much, in the midst of every one of their challenges, great and small.


Tim Van Kirk January 17, 2017 3:00pm

Unfortunately I don't think God has been watching Notre Dame since Lou Holtz was coach.

Nonetheless, I like your message and I think you are right.