“This internalization or privatization of religion is one of the most momentous changes that has ever taken place in Christendom” Sidney Mead
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-16
Martin Marty, esteemed church historian from the University of Chicago, has written a book called Modern Schism. In it he asserts that we are now living for the first time in history where Christianity has been boxed into a private sphere and has largely stopped speaking to the public arena. The late Christopher Reeve gave evidence of this dramatic shift when he told a student group at Yale University, “When matters of public policy are debated, no religions should have a seat at the table.”
Religious belief has now been consigned to the private realm of personal choice. It may have beneficial consequences upon the individual but it has no place in the shaping of public policy or decision making. Religious beliefs are now considered to be personal values and preferences. Public policy on the other hand is decided by hard facts and objective truth. Christianity should take its proper place, kept in the closet of human preferences or in the confines of the religious temple. It should not be brought into the public arena.
But we believe that our faith touches all of life. Jesus gave expression to this reality when he told us to “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Simply stated, for Christians, our faith in Christ extends beyond our private preferences and beyond the stain glass windows of our churches. It is ultimate truth that guides and directs every area of our lives. It must. A private faith is not faith at all. Jesus is Lord over all!
That is why it was so refreshing to see a dynamic faith being publicly expressed on one of the most popular stages in American culture, The Super Bowl. Tony Dungy, coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and Lovie Smith, coach of the Chicago Bears, made a wreck of the idea that faith should be kept private. Each man gave a clear and powerful testimony as to the power that Jesus Christ has upon every area of their lives, including professional football.
At first, what captured most of the attention of the sports writers was the fact that for the first time in the forty-one years of the super bowl history, two black coaches would lead their teams into this sports extravaganza. But as Super Bowl week progressed, another byline took center stage as Dungy and Smith were interviewed. It was disclosed that they were best of friends and both expressed the highest regard for one another. Dungy had hired Smith while he was coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a strong bond had developed between the two. A few years ago, when Dungy’s son James was found dead in his apartment, Lovie immediately left his football duties and went to be with his dear friend in his time of grief. Football was not as important as friendship and family.
But there was something even more significant about these two successful coaches. Both men had won the highest respect of the often cynical and highly competitive world of professional football. It was not just the fact that both of their programs were successful, but it was the way these men went about their business. They did not attempt to motivate or control their teams by intimidation and manipulation. When things were not going well, they did not scream and swear. Both men had about them a quiet, even gentle quality that made them stand out in this very violent and hostile world. As each was interviewed during the week, we found out the secret of their unique coaching style. They were Christians. Their personal relationship with Jesus Christ not only affected their private lives, it transformed the way they coached professional football.
When Tony Dungy was asked how his faith impacted his profession, he answered, “I think it’s great to be able to show the world not only that African-American coaches can do it, but Christian coaches can do it in a way that, you know, we can still win. I want to show people that being a Christian and being successful are not mutually exclusive.” In referring to the terrible ordeal that he went through in the loss of his son, he explained what got him through. Throughout the whole ordeal, it was Tony’s faith in Jesus Christ that allowed him to carry on, saying, “A personal relationship is the only way I’ve found true peace, joy and forgiveness.”
Coach Lovie made the same kind of confession. He said, “Everything that I am is based on my faith. It has been a big part of me,” he says. “At a young age, I called on God to help me, and He was there as a comfort for me. That is something that I have leaned on ever since.”
These two men demonstrated for all to see that faith in Christ should not be restricted to Sunday morning worship services. Their lives spoke louder than even their words. Their love and faith in Jesus Christ made an impact upon the world in which they labored. Their lives shone brightly and the transforming power of Christ made Super Bowl XLl into a field of God-glorifying witness.
I hope this is an encouragement for all of us to let Jesus and his truth shine through our lives in the public arena. Don’t be intimidated by our secular world. Jesus Christ came not only to save individual souls but to transform cultures. We have absolute truth that our chaotic and broken world needs to hear and see. If Jesus Christ lives within us, he will impact every area of our lives. You are a city set on a hill. That is a fact. Now, let your light so shine that the world will see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Dare, by God’s grace, to be a Tony Dungy or a Lovie Smith in the stadium of life. Let Him shine!
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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