If you want to know what heaven will be like, go to a football game.
God has sovereignly ordained football as an incepting means of racial reconciliation to be nurtured in the church militant and realized in the church victorious. Now, before I’m labeled as a race-baiter and/or heretic, hear me out.
A Multi-Colored Beauty
The church militant, that is, the global collection of believers that are currently awaiting the return of Jesus, is a beautiful tapestry. Reds, yellows, blacks, and whites, as well as a myriad of other colors and cultures, are intricately woven together to display the manifold wisdom of God. The church victorious, that is, the collection of believers throughout time and history that will be counted among those who stand with Jesus in the eschaton, this same multi-faceted beauty of diversity. Both stand as prime exhibits for the purpose of Christ’s work. In Ephesians 1:7-10 Paul sets out to make plain this purpose:
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
The blood-soaked death and imputed righteousness of Jesus stains every believer white, so that those who rest their present and eternal hope on the merit of Jesus might be found worthy, reconciled to God in Christ. Here, there are no reified, socially constructed attitudes concerning race. Instead, the multi-ethnic reality of the church is celebrated; each color and nationality celebrated, not relegated. “Color blindness” is neither allowed nor is it possible. God is glorified in the gumbo of race, culture, and ethnicity. It is beautiful.
A Unified Fanaticism
So, if you want to know what heaven will be like, go to a football game.
Thousands of people unified in unbridled fanaticism, unabashedly cuckoo for the home team; no color matters more than the ones that you are wearing. But look a little closer in that stadium and you’ll find something remarkable—a glimpse of heaven. On any given Saturday or Sunday, NCAA and NFL stadiums are multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-generational, cross-cultural, and socio-economically diverse. It is the one time of the week that many people venture outside of their homogeneity. All preferences defer to the ultimate preferences of the “dub.” Many people from many places and walks of life unified for victory. Sure, we ignorantly impute social constructs such as “thug” or the exceptional white athlete onto players. But ultimately those constructs fade to black as long as the “main thing remains the main thing”. NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson once co-opted 1 Peter 4:8, saying that “winning covers up a multitude of sins while losing makes mountains out of molehills.”
A Joyful Reality
What would it look like for the church militant to harness the unified diversity of football during their worship services? What might it look like to lay aside personal preferences and defer to the preferences of our neighbor in the name of our Victorious Savior? Could it be that the unified diversity on display in cathedrals of competition could actually be replicated in the sanctuaries of praise? God may have ordained it to be such. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” –
Jesus will return to inherit a bride, not a harem. It would be tragic if the church militant, whose Jewish hero considered a Samaritan and his Roman murderers his neighbors, never displayed nor enjoyed the joyful reality of the church victorious.
So as you watch the big game this weekend, consider that maybe, just maybe, Cam Newton could teach us much more than just the “dab”.