I was watching last night. I saw Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson throw – as one Twitter user said – the first game winning interception in NFL history. Were our eyes fooling us as we saw one referee call it a touchback while the other simultaneously call it a touchdown?! Yes, the growing frustration with NFL replacement referees reached its zenith last night. ESPN’s homepage is calling this historical sports gaffe “Out of Control.” But on the opposite coast of our country a story is developing that could be called by the same name.
Before addressing that, let me say this first: for the last couple weeks I’ve been struck by the contrast between our obsession with the NFL and what's going on in the Middle East. A United States ambassador dead along with three other Americans on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, violent anti-American protests erupting in multiple countries, the leader of the free world prioritizing meetings with celebrities rather than the head of state of our greatest ally in the region, and the mass population seems more concerned with our fantasy and favorite NFL teams.
This morning the contrast grows more profound. What will garner the most discussion and concern: an atrocious call in Seattle last night or the acrimonious comments of Iran's leader yesterday in NYC, calling Israel a "fake" regime that must be "eliminated"? While this is nothing new for Ahmadinejad, in light of all that's been going on since Ambassador Stevens' death two weeks ago today, it's gravely concerning.
Now, my point in this blog isn't to be "political." Furthermore, my theology doesn't revolve around ethnic Israel or its eschatological future. My concern is how unconcerned we seem to be as a people and as the church. I'm not encouraging panic. God is sovereign. But the doctrine of God's sovereignty doesn't equate with His people's disinterest in the momentum of evil men, empires, and their religion. Quite to the contrary.
In essence, I'm concerned this morning with how we're asleep, and the juxtaposition of these two stories illustrates it. Tragically, we're repeating the Roman Empire's demise: we're obsessed with entertainment (evidenced by our national outrage over a referee's call) while external socio-political powers are slowly but surely increasing in threatening strength. This concern of mine is not primarily patriotic. America is not my primary allegiance; the Kingdom of God is! But the latter doesn't neutralize the concern I have for my country’s well being. In other words, ultimate devotion to Jesus and His future earthly reign should not remove a Christian’s desire for equilibrium between world powers and the promotion of systems of government (like our republican democracy) that foster the freedom to practice one's religion according to the dictates of conscience.
I'm not saying we shouldn't enjoy fantasy football or watch a game on Sunday afternoon. But when our hearts and lives are more concerned with a referee's call than a regime threatening our – and others' – physical lives and religious freedoms, I think we need to wake from our hedonistic slumber. Being gripped by the gospel doesn't mean holing up in our Christian circles and waiting for the rapture. It means being salt and light in our God-ordained societies. It means praying and giving and sending good news preachers whose message will offset the global spread of Islam (and all other false religions). It means we may rest from this spiritual war we’re in to watch a pigskin classic – but only to return to the work of proclaiming the One Who is the only hope for the stability of any civilization and the salvation of any soul, Jesus Christ.