The Night the Sports World Stopped

About a week ago, the sports world stopped here in the United States. I’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, I don’t think any of us have. During a Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, Bills Safety Damar Hamlin collapsed after making tackle.

Now sports injuries are not that uncommon. I think most of us that are sports fans are kind of numb to most injuries, because they tend to happen. But this was different. We didn’t know how different at first, but the longer the training and medical staff was on the field, the stranger the whole situation felt. Then cameras started catching the faces of Hamlin’s teammates and competitors, and we knew without a doubt that this was different.

Hamlin ended up in cardiac arrest, receiving life-saving CPR on the field before being transported the to hospital, where it wasn’t certain if he would survive or not. Thankfully, it seems that we are experiencing a happy and encouraging outcome, as Hamlin is slowly recovering. It will be a long process for sure, but he survived and has been in communication with his team and even made public statements through Instagram.

But like I said, the sports world stopped. The situation in Cincinnati that night was unprecedented, and it led to some unprecedented responses as well. First, an NFL game was suspended and eventually cancelled because of the dire nature of the situation. And this was a game that was very important in the playoff picture. The NFL, most definitely, made the right decision in suspending the game. No doubt about that.

The biggest unprecedented response, however, was ESPN announcers, analysts, fans, players, and anyone else you can think of not only bowing in silent prayer, but publicly stating that the best thing any of us could do at the time was to pray for Damar Hamlin. In fact, the most surprising thing to me, was an ESPN analyst, the following day, openly and vocally praying on air. 

And as Hamlin has continued to improve, and started making public statements, he has been very appreciative of the prayers, and in fact, asked that people continue to pray for him. It seems that this unprecedented event in the sports world has led to unlikely people not only turning to God in prayer, but doing so openly. I’m excited about that, actually. That’s a good thing.

But over the years, that has happened at different times. People tend to turn toward God and pray when the unthinkable happens. This country became a praying nation in the days following 9-11-2001. As the days went along though, that open prayer and longing for God in public waned, and people went back to their normal routines. Hopefully, however, there were some people that changed for the better during that time, and kept praying and developed a relationship with God. And that is my prayer right now during this Damar Hamlin injury. That many that have openly turned to God in prayer will continue to pray and come to truly know the One True God.

There has been a negative side, in my opinion, in this situation. And it has been from Christians. A few years back, Tim Tebow would kneel and pray on the field before and even during NFL games. He was absolutely blasted by commentators and analyst for being so open about his faith and praying. And now that some of those same analysts and commentators have been talking about praying for Hamlin, I’ve seen a lot of Christians complaining and saying that they all owe Tebow an apology. Really? I don’t agree. And here’s why.

First, let’s celebrate that attention has been drawn toward our God. That people are actively seeking Him, even though it might just be for a few days. Who knows how many people might be permanently impacting in positive ways in a relationship with Jesus Christ through this. And that is something to celebrate, again in my opinion.

But what about Tebow? Shouldn’t he receive an apology? I don’t know Tebow, but I think I can answer that and say that that is not what he would want. Think about it. Was Tebow kneeling and praying to get approval from other people, or was he doing it because he has a strong relationship with God and wanted to make sure he was keeping things in the right perspective? If his faith is real, then it was keeping things in the right perspective and giving God the glory. And I think that’s what it was. He wasn’t doing it for the approval of man. He was doing it for God. And through his actions, on and off the field, Tebow has introduced the idea of a relationship with Christ to a lot of people.

Plus, there is the fact that Christ warned all of us that the world would neither understand or like our relationship with Him. The world doesn’t like anything that is not like the world. And putting our relationship with Christ first and foremost is definitely not like the world. That’s what Tebow was (and still is) doing, and that is why the sports world hated on him praying so much. 

Jesus warned in John 15 that this would happen to His followers.

18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their law might be fulfilled: They hated me for no reason.

John 15:18-15

And John, Jesus’ disciple that recorded that warning for us to read, had his own warning for us in I John 3.

13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

I John 3:13

In other words, if we are living for Christ, then we should not be surprised when the world around us hates us or disagrees with what we are doing. For a few days, the world has come together to pray for Damar Hamlin. It is my prayer through this situation that many will continue to pray to God and come to know Christ after all the attention to this event has returned to normal. But at the same time, there are always going to be those that pray when things are bad, and then go right back to the same old, self-reliant lifestyle when things improve. Many times, we that are following Christ do the same thing, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

Keep praying. Follow Christ. And when the world hates you for it, keep doing it anyway. Be bold in your faith, no matter what anyone else says about it, and don’t be surprised when attacks come. If attacks aren’t coming, then maybe you need to reevaluate how well you are showing Christ in your daily life. Thank you God, for healing Hamlin. Thank you God, for the faithfulness of Tebow when he had the platform to point others to You. Most of all, thank you God for Christ, who sacrificed Himself for our sins. May will life faithfully, in such a way to honor that sacrifice. In Christ’s name I pray, AMEN!

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