The Eagles and the Gospel

By Todd Hill

Fly eagles fly, on the road to victory! That was the sound of the dozen or so people who squeezed into my living room last Sunday to cheer on their underdog Philadelphia Eagles to a resounding victory over the Minnesota Vikings. There was much jubilation not only in my living room, but across the city, as was evident by the news coverage of the thousands of fans celebrating in the streets of Philadelphia.

Like other fans, I have enjoyed the success of the team this year. It has been fun to watch them overachieve and become one of the best teams in the NFL. I find myself often going to the local sports radio shows when I am driving to hear the latest buzz about the team. I will be glued to the TV in a couple weeks when they throw their proverbial stone at that Goliath team from New England!

As I reflect on the experience of living in a city like Philadelphia during a season like this, I feel that there are both redemptive opportunities, as well as glaring pictures of brokenness that become evident.

I was saddened this morning as I listened to one of the hosts of a sports radio show speak of a college friend. His friend will be rooting for the Patriots next week. As he read the nasty exchange of tweets between him and his friend, it became evident that the friendship would not survive this game. He ended by describing this now former friend with a crass expletive while his co-host cheered him on. Did that really happen? Did a friendship just end because of a game of football?

Already I cringe at stories about out-of-control fans punching horses, throwing opposing teams’ hats into the urinal at the stadium, and fistfights breaking out after the game. What would make someone act like this? In our circles, we understand this to be misplaced worship. Somehow, this good game of football has become a god thing.

However, it is also cool to see the many redemptive ways that God can use something as simple as a game of football. Already, I have formed a deeper connection with the cashier at my local Acme because of the friendly banter we regularly have surrounding the Eagles (he is a Cowboy’s fan). Where we are sometimes uncertain how to engage with those around us, there is a newfound opportunity to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. There is a new sense of community, a new openness.

I suspect that Paul, who said that he became all things to all men (1 Cor 9:19-23), if he lived in Philadelphia in 2018, would be one of the biggest fans around. He would engage his neighbor. He would watch the game with someone who needs encouragement. And he probably would share how all things are loss apart from knowing Christ – even an Eagles’ Super Bowl victory.