Discerning Theological Athletespeak

I blog and I read blogs, I am blogalicious, blogocentric, a blog-a-holic to the point that one day I will probably inexplicably develop blogaphobia. The thing I love about blogs is that they give voice to actual people, which can be a train wreck, but in some sense has loosened the monopoly of information provided by the talking heads in the media. I do not read blogs about the things someone did between 3:30 and 5:00. I don’t enjoy blogs that are overly laced with how a person “feels.” That being said, over the past few years I have stumbled across some worthy blogs I read on a regular basis. I share this entry from C.J. Mahaney’s post on the Sovereign Grace Ministry blog (which I accessed via Between Two Worlds) not primarily due to the Art Monk comment, but due to the following insight from Mahaney.

“From my view in the cheap seats, too many pro athletes who profess Christ appear theologically ignorant, have little or no involvement in the local church, and have no pastoral oversight in their lives. Monk’s speech appears to be the fruit of good pastoring. If more professional athletes participated in churches where sound doctrine was taught, there might be more examples like Art Monk and Darrell Green.”

Given how many media types and athletes make God references on the tube and how Christians for some reason are drawn like ants to sugar to deem any popular media type who mentions God a great theological voice for the cause of Christ – I submit this entry as a note on the importance of discernment, good theology, and the intrinsic role of the church in the life of any true professing believer. With that Pauline type run on being said – here’s the good stuff.
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I read these words with tears in my eyes.

Art Monk stepped to the podium next to deliver his induction speech. His words are worth reading carefully. He said,

… Getting here did not come without controversy, as I'm sure it did with some of the guys sitting behind me. But through it all, I'm here with a greater appreciation for something that not every player is able to achieve and for the people who stood up for me and spoke out on my behalf. …

What I’ve tried to convey to those who were upset about the process was that I was okay with it. But in all due respect, that as great as this honor is, it’s not what really defines who I am or the things that I’ve been able to accomplish in my life. …

And even now as a Hall of Famer, the one thing I want to make very clear is that my identity and my security is found in the Lord. And what defines me and my validation comes in having accepted his son Jesus Christ as my personal savior. And what defines me is the Word of God, and it’s the Word of God that will continue to shape and mold me into the person that I know he’s called me to be.

So I’ve learned a long time ago never to put my faith or trust in man, for man will always fail you. Man will always disappoint you. But the Word of God says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. And He will never fail you.

And that is what I live by and what I stand on. Being included into this fraternity is a pretty humbling experience for me. I always grew up seeing these guys as giants and legends who make significant contributions to the game of football. And it’s pretty hard for me to believe that I’ve now been included as part of them. Growing up I was never voted the most likely to succeed. And there was never anything about me that would have given anyone the impression that I would have played in the NFL, let alone to be standing here.

There’s a scripture that I think about almost every day and I’ve come to personalize it to my life. It says: “Lord, who am I that you are mindful of me?” [Psalm 8:4]. And the Apostle Paul says, “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many were wise by human standards. Not many were influential. Not many were born of noble birth” [1 Corinthians 1:26]. And when I look at my life and how I grew up, I certainly had none of those qualities or benefits.

But I understand and I know that I’m here not by, in, and of my own strength—but it’s by the grace and the power of God upon my life, who I know gave me favor along the way, and who provided opportunity and room for me to use my gifts.

So I am very grateful to receive this honor, and I can stand here before you and say, “Hey, look at me, look at what I did.” But if I’m going to boast, I’m going to boast today in the Lord, for it’s because of him that I’m here and I give him thanks and glory and honor for all that he has done for me.

Art Monk’s words reveal humility, are theologically informed, and are mindful of an eternal perspective (as were Darrell Green’s).

From my view in the cheap seats, too many pro athletes who profess Christ appear theologically ignorant, have little or no involvement in the local church, and have no pastoral oversight in their lives. Monk’s speech appears to be the fruit of good pastoring. If more professional athletes participated in churches where sound doctrine was taught, there might be more examples like Art Monk and Darrell Green.

But I want you to notice that early in the speech Monk mentions the controversy over his postponed induction to the Hall of Fame. For seven years he was denied entrance into the Hall, though his stats were obviously as good as other receivers already in the Hall (such as Michael Irvin, who was inducted in 2007). And Monk addressed the controversy head-on, but with humility. After a long and controversial wait, we hear a humble man who places his trust beyond the reach of man, and who doesn’t live to be honored by men.

Monk’s speech reflects the words of Jeremiah 9:23-24.

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

The quiet sports star stepped in front of thousands of fans and used the moment, not for self-congratulation, but to glorify God. Standing beside a bronze bust of himself, his speech is no celebration of human achievement, but of amazing grace. In a place built to enshrine human achievement, Monk reminded us all of human weakness.

Sunday Art Monk provided a compelling example for fathers and their children of true greatness—humility before God. I try to seize these moments as teaching moments for my soul and my son. And I am freshly provoked to provide my son with a similar example of humility.

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