Maybe sports (especially football) and Christianity receive too much comparison today.
Well, brace yourself for another.
There’s a great picture of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten from the 2007 season. After catching a pass and taking a hit, his helmet was stripped off, only for him to continue running with the ball with a laser focus on the end zone.
It’s a picture that reminds me of self-control. Though it’s only a game, it’s a violent game played by plus-sized men with high degrees of acceleration. Mass multiplied by acceleration equals force, and if helmetless Jason Witten was to be hit by an opposing force, his head may have suffered severe consequences.
He didn’t score, but he will be remembered in Cowboy lore for doing something that always deserves respect in team sports. He sacrificed his own wellbeing for the team.
And, it happened against the Philadelphia Eagles. Bonus.
I think of Jesus and what his laser-like focus must have been when shouldering the cross, making that long, hot, dusty, spit-soaked and bloodstained trek up to Calvary knowing the pain was only going to get worse at the top of the hill.
I think of earlier in the Bible when Jesus withstood the most tantalizing temptations ever put before man while in a weakened state by the adversary of adversaries.
I think of how people tried to hurt, manipulate, curse and deny Jesus despite his kindness, compassion and truth-telling only for Him to ask His father for them to be forgiven when He had suffered as much as a person could suffer.
And I think about how by believing in Him, I’ve been forgiven and have access to the same love that has the power to keep my own selfish desires in check and promote the welfare of others in action and in word.
Jesus went more than helmetless. He eschewed divine physical protection in favor of God’s will to do only what Jesus could have done. He lived a perfect life. He died on a cross. He rose again to win the victory of all victories.
And it was against death.
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” – Proverbs 25:28
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” – 2 Peter 1:5-7
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32