Football, what football?

 I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but there’s been quite a bit of football on television recently. Love it or loathe it, every 4 years – at least as far as TV scheduling goes – the World Cup takes centre stage with 32 national teams battling it out to be crowned the best on the planet.

Now I appreciate that perhaps, for at least some of you, you really don’t care – in fact you’d rather watch paint dry. But for many, the thrill and dazzling spectacle of what Pelé described as “the beautiful game” is a highly anticipated event. TV audience ratings seem to underline the fact with figures for the opening England match peaking at some 18.3 million with a further 3 million watching live online!

Karl Marx in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right famously stated that, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Now 150 years later in the 21st century, perhaps it could be argued that sport is now the new opiate of the masses. Certainly, for some, sport is their religion, with Sundays less filled with the rush to get dressed smartly and out in time for church, and more often with young and old trying to find football boots or gum shields for the local match. 

But maybe there are some parallels and some things we can learn from this year’s World Cup team performances? When Jesus picked His 12 disciples, he didn’t pick the elite of society, the superstars with a track record, the best tricks and the most astute agents. He picked the uneducated, the unprivileged, the unknown. Yet interestingly, these individual guys had their unique strengths, gifts and passions and their irreplaceable part in God’s big plan. And when they came together and recognised what could be achieved as one – the church was born and the known world was rocked to its core! 

So too with us: God has created and picked each one of us with our own distinctive gifts, strengths, and passions to fulfil roles in His “squad”. Paul says this about serving on God’s team: “A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. That’s how it is with us” (Romans 12: 4-5).

The beauty of the best teams we have seen playing in Russia this year has been those who played with fun, freedom and fluency as one, for and with each other. Each of the individual lights, talents and gifts combine into a greater light of working together as a team for victory – and that, like the church at its best, is a beautiful thing to behold.

So depending on the outcome of the next few weeks – astounding congratulations or expected commiserations to England – and may we all, whether we consider ourselves a bit of a Messi or simply just a bit messy, learn the joy of serving as one team for the sake of His people, His world and His glory.

About Author

Tim Buckley

Priest in Charge Loves church pioneering, family, guitars, Macs, jeeps and Jesus, not necessarily in that order...