How many millions of people will tune in to watch the Super Bowl this year?
I could probably count in a few hands the number of people watching the NFL Pro Bowl (all-star game) this Sunday. This has become the most passion-less sporting event know to man.
I'd like to point out three main reasons:
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Over-regulation destroys freedom from player and coach.
Aside from the dirty Sean Taylor hit on the unsuspecting punter Brian Moorman some years ago, players are over-concerned for safety. And I get that. Why would anyone want to get hurt in a game that means absolutely nothing?
Is it really all that surprising that giving the richest football players an end-of-year bonus comparable to a membership in the Jelly of the Month club doesn't inspire passion?
Consider how the Pro Bowl can help the church diagnose its own passion problem, and how the gospel provides a better answer than the NFL.
For over-regulation: There are plenty of commands in scripture. We don't need to add any more to the list.
Remember, Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms for religious leaders who shackled people with law additions (Luke 11).
Don't forget Paul's has a literal "come to Jesus" talk with Peter when he restricts this new freedom in Christ (Gal 2). Not a "Pro-Bowl" type conversation I imagine!
When people experience real freedom in Christ, they find new ways to use books, movies, philosophy, hobbies, and even beer to point people to Him.
It's been fun to see this happen the last few years at our church.
If you want to take the passion out of someone, pile more rules on them. It works.
I've seen it happen when my 7-year-old makes up rules for my 5-year-old to follow.
Let's be careful not to restrict where Jesus gives freedom.
For self-preservation: The gospel message is a proclamation Jesus has already done what we could never do. If we believe that, we'll see our fear of failure slowly drain away like a bad leak.
Some of us have ideas for ministry, service, or even dreams for work.
Not all will work out well.
Sometimes we have to fail in order to know which ones will stick. How do you really know that you are free until you either experience or at least risk failure?
Self-preservation and passion for Christ never go together.
At Harbor, we have tried to match passions up with new (high risk) ministry opportunities like a mentoring initiative, and even a Vacation Bible Fish.
The result is a passion akin to kids in a candy shop. It's beautiful.
It doesn't matter. People who "get" the gospel don't think their good deeds don't matter; they just believe their good deeds (done in faith) don't validate them before God and others. Martin Luther is credited with saying something to the effect of: "God doesn't need your good deeds, but your neighbor does."
So my deeds matter.
They can make quite the difference. If Christians aim to leave this world better than they found it, then I'm "playing" for something bigger than myself, or even my family. As I tell my kids, "I'm proud of you whether you strike out or hit a home run," so we then we should be passionately even more motivated to walk in the good deeds predetermined for us (Eph 2).
You probably can't do anything about the Pro Bowl other than turn it off. But passion for Jesus comes with the reclamation of preaching the gospel from both the pulpit and from the "pew."
Pastor Geoff Henderson, at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at@theapostleGH. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald written by local clergy members.