Rev. Jordan McKenzie
Last night, tens of millions of Americans watched as the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl, defeating the New England Patriots in a thrilling game. As always, it was a media frenzy. Alongside the game itself, the media was abuzz with stories about the halftime performance of Justin Timberlake, the commercials, and the like. But there was also another story that some made light of: the Christian faith of many of the Philadelphia Eagles players and coaches.
After the game when he was awarded the team’s victory trophy, Eagles head coach Doug Peterson began by saying that he wanted to give praise to his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Quarterback Nick Foles, when he was awarded the game’s Most Valuable Player just moments later, immediately said that “all glory goes to God” for his performance. Tight End Zach Ertz, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass with just minutes to go, said that honoring Christ was his first goal in the game. Frank Reich, the offensive coordinator for the Eagles, echoed this sentiment, having been a former pastor before entering coaching. Even Carson Wentz, the Eagles’ star quarterback who was hurt and unable to play in the game, credited his faith with helping him get through the disappointment of not being able to play in the game. One article in The Washington Post went so far as to say that the “binding force” of the championship team was the Christian faith that so many of its players and coaches shared.
Many will no doubt cheer on the Eagles’ testimonies of faith. Many others will no doubt roll their eyes, saying that they would like less faith and more football. (After all, thanking Jesus has become a kind-of cheap cliche in such celebrations, something that seemingly everybody does.) But regardless of what people think, there are a couple of important comments to be made. One is a caution, the other a lesson.
First, the caution is that it would be very shortsighted to say that the Eagles won the Super Bowl simply because so many players and coaches on the team were outspoken Christians, as if God somehow liked them more or rewarded them because they are Christians. It is true that God works all things together for the good of those that love him (Romans 8:28). But it’s also true that God gives blessings to the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45). So while God does work in the lives of those who follow Him, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll let us win a football game or give us good luck when we need it.
With that said, we can learn an important lesson from the players and coaches that spoke about their faith. And that’s this: When it comes down to it, what matters is how we respond in the defining moments of our lives.
Most of us are not professional athletes, but regardless we all find ourselves in moments that define who we really are. We’re at work and can get that promotion we’ve always wanted by fudging the truth on our resume. We have a chance for that relationship with someone we’ve always liked and we might actually be able to have it if we embellish who we are or what we’ve done. We see someone in a position of authority doing something that’s not right, and we have the choice to stand up or be silent. The question is: who are we in those defining moments? Who are we in those moments where we face the pressure or temptation to do something that’s not right?
In their defining moments, these players and coaches continued to be resolute in who God called them to be. They could have made the victory all about themselves. They could have praised their own performances and not mentioned their faith. They could have gone out to party or womanize, like many other players certainly were doing and likely pressured them to do. But instead, in spite of all the accolades and attention, they lived with integrity and didn’t change who they were. They let their faith define them.
That’s the lesson we can learn from one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory. What matters most is who you are in those defining moments.
So, that’s the question. Who are you in those moments? Are you defined by your faith and integrity, or something else?