But if high-character athletes give glory to God rather than to themselves, if they thank God rather than their genes, they get criticized.
Amazingly, believers are often the most uncomfortable with this kind of post-game confession of faith. We back off and button our lips or look embarrassed.
Perhaps we believers don't want Jesus to take the blame the next time this guy plays lousy, or drops the winning touchdown pass. But it is probably more likely that we are turned off by the notion that the Lord of the universe, the Savior of all creation, is sitting down this Sunday watching a football game.
Does God have a favorite NFL team? Does Jesus root for special players? What do we do and say when a big, burly football player claims that Christ helped him win the big game or make the big play? Is there a Christian way to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday?
Right up front, let's agree that no, God does not have a favorite team and that Jesus really doesn't care who wins the big game today. But our Lord and Savior does care about how the game is played; even more importantly, about how all of our seemingly so important life-games are played. At all times, in all places, in all our "game," Christians are to play like Christians ... win or lose.
This brings us to our text for this morning.
Here Jesus reveals the four essential plays He is going to use as He competes in the real super bowl of life. How is Jesus playing the game?
First, Jesus declares that He brings good news to "the poor." Second, He seeks the release of those bound in all types of captivity. Third, He offers new vision to those who have been living blind, healing for those who are wounded and diseased. Finally, He gives freedom to those who are oppressed.
These are the "plays" in Jesus' playbook, and they represent a radical departure from the conventional approach to the game. I like a positive approach to problems. So often we look only to the problem and we want to play the blame game. But defense is only half of the game.
Paul's admonitions, advice and arguments before the Corinthian church serve not only to reveal what was wrong in that community, but also to celebrate what was right. By straightforwardly dealing with the contentious claims and competing camps, Paul can give us the impression that he was frantically involved in just keeping this church from self-destructing. We forget what the Corinthians were doing right ... especially as detailed by today's text. This community was experiencing vital manifestations of God's love through the living gifts of the Spirit in a stunning variety of powerful and purposeful ways. Instead of focusing on how Paul deals with believers who have been too inclined to celebrate one spiritual gift over another, consider the remarkable number and variety of these spiritually empowered expressions of God's presence that the apostle could easily identify and list for his readers. Not only is this list of spiritual gifts itemized in 1 Corinthians 12 impressive, but match this list against that provided by Paul beginning in Romans 12:6. Only the gift of prophecy is noted as being in common between these two. Despite the theological missteps, the mutually destructive squabbling and the egoistic arguments that fractured the peace of the Corinthian church, it is evident that this was a vibrant community, rich with experiences of divine love.