What the World Cup Teaches Us About Christianity
The World Cup is arguably the biggest footballing tournament in the world. Once every four years, qualified nations from all continents come together to compete for this prestigious trophy. A lot of football stars show up to make their countries proud. At the end of the tournament, there are new stars discovered, records broken, tears of joy and of sorrow, excitement, disappointment, the glorious sight of the winning nation lifting the golden trophy and memories to carry home. But what does this teach us about Christianity?
Before the tournament begins, the coach of each of the national teams is expected to produce a short-list of 23 players who would represent their respective nations in the competition. This is usually not a problem, until the nation is blessed with an embarrassing wealth of talented players. The coach will have to leave behind some players who will easily fit into the starting line-up of other countries. Taking the Russia 2018 tournament as an example, stars such as Fabregas and Morata of Spain, and Sane of Germany were excluded from their respective nations’ 23-man lists. Football fans will well know that these players can fit wonderfully into the teams of other nations present at the event.
This exclusion usually doesn’t go down well with the excluded players, especially when they are really good. They feel disappointed, some feel demoralised, some call the coach names and some even decide never to play for their nations again as a result of the snub. But what I have observed as a football fan from over the years is that once the ball is kicked and the various national teams begin to compete for the trophy, everyone of their countrymen–including the snubbed footballers–rally behind their teams and give them much needed support. The entire nation unites for the glory of their country.
In our Christian circles, there are lots of things to be done, lots of people to do them, but sometimes, so little opportunities available. Take for example a local church. As part of the worship service, there is usually one preacher, one worship leader, maybe a few choristers to sing and a handful of instrumentalists on the instruments. On the background, there are probably ten people who can preach, twenty more who can lead worship, and a good number of those who can sing or play an instrument. Out of all of these, only a few ever get to do what they can do as a contribution to the church.
Usually, this brings about jealousy, castigation and sometimes a complete refusal to help in any way to build the body of Christ. Many of us believers have an “It should have been me” feeling whenever a great preaching is done that brings about repentance. We feel bad when it is not our song being listened to often and covered by various church choirs. We become envious when others with lower credentials are made leaders ahead of us. When ministries that we don’t belong to pull a large crowd, we grow jealous.
This may be the case today, but it shouldn’t be so. John the Baptist when replying his disciples after they informed him that Jesus was baptising and everyone was going to Him said in John 3:27-30,
“A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegrooms voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
Just like the groups of people who will be seated in front of their television sets and those seated in stadiums across Russia to watch the 2018 World Cup will be cheering on their nations and celebrating every goal and victory even though they are not a part of the team under the floodlights, we as Christians, one nation under God and children of the Most Hight, are expected to cheer on the church and celebrate the victory of the Body of Christ, even when we are not part of those in the spotlight.
Our own glory and fame should not be our priority but the glory of Jesus Christ. We should know that all works done in the name of Christ Jesus is not to make us bigger but to lift Jesus higher. Whenever someone does something that brings glory to the body of Christ, we are expected, out of understanding that it is Christ’s glory that we seek, to celebrate and be filled with joy because our team and the Kingdom we stand for has just won.
At those times when we are not privileged to be the ones doing the great works, we should remember that a man can only receive what is given him from heaven. We should also learn to embrace and be content with the position Christ has given us in His body, doing our best to carry out our little responsibility with excellence.
And just like we would be gathered around our TV sets to cheer on our nations as they represent us, I pray we learn to rejoice in the glory of the Kingdom of God as well, even when we are not the ones chosen to do the great works.