The following is a great post by Erik Raymond about who we blame when things go wrong. Read it!
It happened just as they drew it up. Almost. The hapless Buffalo Bills had battled the perennial powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers to a tie at the end of regulation. The Bills were driving. Speedy wide receiver Stevie Johnson beats his man and then outruns the safety to the end zone. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick throws a perfect ball and…Johnson drops it. And of course the Steelers go on to win and Johnson (along with Bills’ fans) have to live with what would have been if he would have held on to the football.
Now we all feel for Johnson. But it is a part of sports. Sometimes you make plays and sometimes you don’t. We are, after all (even NFL Stars), human.
I think Stevie Johnson forgot that last part. Because, what he did next was revealing. It revealed what Johnson thinks about himself, about God, and about the day to day events that make up his life. In so doing, I think he hit something that is quite prevalent in contemporary American ‘functional-theology’. That is, Johnson is regrettably a good mirror into our theological thought.
After the game he hustled to his iPad and fired this twitter salvo in all caps:
I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…
Gulp. OK, maybe his twitter account was hacked (like every other dumb celebrity tweet that has ever gone viral). But if it wasn’t, then we have some good fodder before us to think about how people view God and his gospel.
1. This is not Christianity but Legal-anity. Johnson is appealing to his own righteousness (works, merit, duty, etc) as a basis for God to bless him. This lack of blessing in his life (ie a dropped pass) is a problem because of his religious capital that he has earned. In other words, “You are supposed to bless me because I keep all the rules, I do what I’m supposed to! God, YOU OWE ME!”
This is the exact opposite of Christianity. As it has been said by many people, “Christianity is not if I keep all the rules God will bless me….but instead it says, I did not keep all the rules (in fact I broke them all) but Jesus kept all the rules in my place! and then paid my penalty for breaking the rules!” In other words, God does not bless me because of what I have done but he does so because of what Christ has done in my place. On my own merit, I don’t deserve anything but wrath, judgment, and curse!
Johnson does not appeal to Christ’s work but to his own (perceived) ability to keep the law. This is not Christianity but legalanity.
2. What he is basically saying is…Don’t miss the venom in this tweet. He is basically saying, “God, you have no right to do this. I am righteous.” The fact that he says that he praises God 24/7 indicates that he does not know the first thing about praising God. You cannot pump praise out of the same heart that is spewing this blashphemy.
Not only his he commending his righteousness but the other side of this is that he is judging God to be unrighteous. This guy is like a bull in a theological china shop. His is knocking everything over in 140 characters or less.
In addition to saying that he is perfect he is saying that God is not. This is the essence of idolatry. He impugns God’s character to rescue himself. The tragedy of this is what he loses. The only way that anyone can be rescued from themselves is to have a God with a perfect character in tact. This is the bigger dropped ball.
Job found this out:
(Job 40.1-2) And the LORD said to Job:”Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
(Job 40.7-10) 7 “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
3. Christians don’t judge God by our standards but we judge ourselves by his. We are created and finite, not to mention sinful. God is eternal, perfect and the judge. To invert this relationship is live in a false reality.
4. We don’t keep a record of wrongs on God he keeps one on us. What a crazy thing to say to God, “I won’t forget this.” He is treating God like a girlfriend that he things has wronged him.
The frightening irony is that God actually does keeps a record of wrongs. And the list is very large. If God judges us on this basis (the list of our sin) then we are done. We need a righteous substitute. We need a perfect Savior who can earn perfect righteousness and provide it for sinners like us. This is the only one who has no wrongs to be judged for. And this is the only one who could be judged for our wrongs (2 Cor. 5.21; 2 Pet. 3.18)
5. You won’t live forever to ‘never forget this’ you are a creature. This really is what is at the heart of the problem. Stevie Johnson has a God complex. He things that he is God and that God is his agent. What he is struggling with is his divinity. He is seeking to fire his agent. But God is not for hire. God is for worship. The fact of the matter is that one day we all, even pro athletes, will breath our last and stand before God to give an account. On that day it will become clear that we would want to forget our deeds and remember Christ’s.
This is not to pick on Stevie Johnson. Indeed all people come out of the womb craving personal glory and crawling towards autonomy (I was an advanced infant and an early crawler). And when we see our lack of sovereignty then the true sovereign is a convenient fall guy; his goodness gets impugned because he was not serving us.
This of course leaves our goodness looking far less good than God’s. The most evil thing to do is to question the goodness of the supremely good One. I think Job learned about that.
We need to learn this. When things ‘don’t go our way’ or as we planned, we mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking that we have God in our pocket. We cannot give God an extreme makeover and turn him into some type of Greek/Christian hybrid. He is holy, good, righteous, sovereign, loving and merciful. He is to be worshiped and treasured because of who he is and what he has done for sinners through Jesus.
Once again athletes help us. Often times they help us to see who we’d like to be on the football field. Here we see and hear something that confronts our thinking. This is one pro athlete that I don’t want to emulate; but would like to learn from.