Christians Watching the Super Bowl?
January 26, 2015
This is not a post that will gain me much popularity, with accusations of legalism bound to happen. If there's one thing I know from attending a Big Ten school to play soccer, it is this: don't mess with Americans and their sports. If we don't think we have a problem with the idolatry of sports then we're borderline insane.
For those who don't know, the Super Bowl takes place this coming Lord's day (330pm PST). Is watching the Super Bowl a good idea on the Lord's Day? For some, the game may even take them away from church altogether. We've gone from Sabbath to Lord's day to Super Bowl Sunday...
Our desire to worship the Lord, who purchased us at a great price, often leaves a lot to be desired, even when we don't have major distractions like the NFL (which is why I prefer college football).
Is it not true that Christ went more willingly to the cross than we go to church?
Christ did not die for us to skip church on Sunday to watch football. I also question whether he died so that we might put ourselves in a position whereby we are more excited about the game than worshipping him. Each person will have to examine their own heart on this matter.
This issue may not be a problem for those who only have a morning service. It may also not be a problem for those who reject the Sabbatarian nature of the Lord's Day. So I'm speaking primarily to ministers and others who claim to hold to the WCF, as well as those who ordinarily go to the evening service. But hopefully the rest will also consider foregoing watching men in spandex.
To me, there's no contest between attending church or watching the Super Bowl. Yet there is a contest; and far too often our flesh, the world, and the devil win. We honor Christ with our lips, but our hearts are far from him.
Last year, my father offered to take me to the Super Bowl, and pay for the trip. I declined because, ultimately, as nice as it would have been to watch the Seahawks dismantle the Broncos, unlike they failed to do when they played the Steelers (losing 21-10 then whining, quite rightfully, over a controversial call), I could not have watched the game in faith (Rom. 14:23). I would have lost a whole lot more than I could have possibly gained.
For Sabbatarians, and those who have taken public vows to adhere to the teaching of the WCF (assuming they haven't taken the now almost obligatory exception at presbytery), I think the issue is pretty straightforward:
"This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations,but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy" (WCF 21.8; see also HC, Q. 103).
Consider that your use of social media on Sunday might cause us "weaker" brothers to stumble if you're going on about the game.
But even for those who aren't Sabbatarians, you may need to ask yourself whether your attention will be so diverted from Christ because of the Super Bowl that the day will really become the Lord's hour, and little more. God is jealous for his glory (Ex. 34:14).
It might be worth considering that we suffer very little for our faith in North America. Very little indeed. Perhaps we suffer so little because we really aren't that different than the world. We'll tweet, post on Facebook, etc., a great deal about the game, but will we discuss the sermon with our children or re-open the Scriptures on Super Bowl Sunday (or any other Sunday, for that matter)? Our works of mercy may involve keeping our friends from drinking Bud Light - almost a legit work of mercy, actually. Many of us probably know more about "deflate-gate" than the biblical "gates" (Ps. 118:20; Rev. 22:14).
The world will have their day the way they like it. But Christians are not of the world (Jn. 17:16; Rom. 12:2), and we are, like John, to be "in the Spirit" on the Lord's Day (Rev. 1:10).
Personally, I've found it more liberating to DVR (record) Liverpool F.C. when they play on Sundays. I may, providentially, find out the score, but not because I've been on Television, Facebook, and Twitter. If I don't know the score, I get to watch the game with my undivided attention and not serve two masters. But on the Lord's day, Christ must have his glory and our attention. He must increase, we must decrease.
The Super Bowl or works of mercy and piety? A no brainer.
The Super Bowl or fellowship and communion with the saints? A no brainer.
The Super Bowl or worship? A no brainer.
So have we lost our brains?
If only our public zeal for the 6th commandment (murder, abortion, etc.) could be channeled into a similar public zeal for the 4th commandment, too. Maybe the Lord will bless us with more success in society regarding the 6th commandment if we show we're serious about the 4th.
Our love for Christ - i.e., his person - not an abstract law, makes most decisions easy. Yet we make easy decisions difficult.
Even if you are not a Sabbatarian, there really is nothing better than being with Christ and his people on the Lord's day. Maybe having lunch with old ladies this Sunday during the Super Bowl doesn't sound all that special, until you consider that you'll likely be spending eternity with those old ladies (who will look a lot better in heaven than they now do on earth) instead of watching (a potentially half-naked) Katy Perry on a stage.
Honoring the Lord's day ("day of the Lord") brings with it great promises that Seattle and New England simply can't offer:
"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isa. 58:13-14).
Like many, I confess to struggling with the application of this commandment. It is a difficult exegetical issue, too. But I know my holiness, which is more imagined than real (but still real, nonetheless), needs a lot more of the Lord on his day than the entertainment of the world. All of the objections that my heart inevitably raises are quickly answered when I remember that my joy must first be in the Lord before anything else, so that anything or anyone else is hated compared to him (Lk. 14:26).
Pastor Jones, to his shame, has often failed to refrain from doing his pleasure on the Lord's day.
PS, Do yourself a favor and watch the first 35 seconds...