|Across the nation, millions await the whistle for the opening kickoff|
of the 2014 college football season.
After a seemingly interminable wait, it starts again this weekend – college football season. With memories of bowl games that concluded the 2013 season fading, hopes for fans across the country are at their apex. Whether you root for Alabama or Aliquippa State, Wisconsin or Winthrop, Syracuse or Slippery Rock, expectations are high. Your team, like all the others, is undefeated, for the moment.
So let’s revel in that moment. Forget soccer – it’s time for real football to commence! With its pageantry, spectacle, craziness. They’ll be on display in stadiums from coast to coast, everyone decked in their favorite school’s colors, bands blaring fight songs, cheerleaders jumping and screaming, coaches raving and ranting, demanding “110 percent” from their team.
I’ll be rooting for Ohio State’s Scarlet and Gray, as I have every season since 1966. But I’ll also be admiring the sport’s teamwork aspect – players performing their respective roles and, if they do them well, powering their team to success.
Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers get most of the acclaim, but the huge, unheralded linemen are the ones that make possible the exciting runs, spectacular passes and…touchdowns. On defense, success requires hefty hulks on the defensive line, agile linebackers and speedy defensive backs, all doing their part to disrupt the opposing team’s offensive schemes.
It only takes a single breakdown – a failed block, a missed tackle, an untimely penalty – to shift momentum and potentially change the outcome of the game. So when the question is asked, “Who’s the most important player on the field?” the truthful answer is every single one of them. This brings to mind familiar adages like, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.”
The latter observation comes from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 4:9. The Scriptures speak extensively about teamwork, affirming none of us alone is as strong as when we’re working in concert with others, aligned to the same mission or goal. A few verses later in the passage it states, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Proverbs 27:17 declares, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” and any good football coach will tell you competition within the team serves to make everyone better.
I love the moment in a football game when, after a big play, teammates converge to back-slap, high-five and chest-bump, engaging in mutual congratulatory support. While it’s not talking about American football, Hebrews 10:24-25 refers to this when it says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds…. Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another.”
And speaking of teamwork, the Bible uses the human body as a metaphor for teamwork and unity built around a common purpose, especially the Church of Jesus Christ. It even alludes to our tendency to give special notice to the more spectacular parts:
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts…and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have special concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
So when you turn on your TV to watch your favorite team, remember when it’s operating smoothly, with the various players effectively carrying out the responsibilities of their positions, it’s how the body of Christ should function. And when there’s a lost fumble, interception, missed block or tackle, that’s kind of how the body of Christ looks when we fail to fulfill the role God has called us to fill. So try not to miss your assignment – no matter what you’ve been given to do, it’s important.