One Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago at Fx Church I was listening to a sermon from Jeremiah 2. Like many Sunday mornings, I was very engaged in listening to the sermon when a particular phrase jumped out at me and wouldn’t let me continue to follow along with the pastor until I had given enough consideration to that thought. This particular week it was the question “Where is the Lord?” (As read in Jeremiah 2:6,8).
Where is the Lord is the question that the Israelite people did not ask which caused them to drift from their close relationship to God. As the pastor continued to discuss and elaborate on the passage in a larger context I was captured by the question. I began to think about whether I ask this question in all of my activities. And then I arrived at an interesting and possibly troubling observation about myself. While it is easy for me to make a case for seeking God or seeking to make God known through most of my activities, there stood out one in which I could not help but to ask “Where is the Lord?”. When I asked this question I only came up with silence and more pondering. I realized that in my absence of asking “Where is the Lord” that I had established (in my own mind) a place where I had to answer to no one and I was the undisputed king.
NCAA College Football 2013 – Dynasty Mode
This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I have created a place where I want to be known as the king. If you are not immediately familiar with what I am talking about I will give a brief description. In this college football videogame there exists a mode of playing that allows you to take over as the head coach of the team. In this game mode you not only play all of the games during a regular season of college football, but also you are in charge of recruiting high school players to play on your team in future seasons. I’m not sure how many consecutive seasons you can play in a row, but I am in year 8 of my dynasty. In addition to being able to play the games and recruit future players, the game also keeps track of stats and chooses players to win the same awards that are handed out in real life. These awards include the Heisman Trophy, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, etc. .
As I said I am in year eight of my dynasty, which means I have played well over 100 games. And in those 100+ games, I have one loss. I have recruited and graduated multiple classes of student athletes, several of which I am told became first round picks in the NFL draft. I have won one Rose Bowl and 6 National Championships. I have moved from the Big Ten conference to other major conferences so that I can claim their Championship for my trophy collection as well. I have seen multiple players of mine win the Heisman trophy. I have set nearly every team record for IU in both offense and defense. I have set several national records on both sides of the ball as well. I have personally transformed Indiana University football from a laughingstock into the undisputed best college football dynasty of all time. This is MY KINGDOM WHERE I REIGN! No one disputes my authority.
The funny thing is, there is literally no one that can dispute my authority. I play alone against the incredibly predictable computer. And yet, I feel supreme in my kingdom nonetheless. I love entering my world of football because everything goes according to my plan and resistance is futile. But then the question “Where is the Lord” came in and destroyed everything. Where is the Lord in NCAA Football 2013? Where is the throne I have made for God in my gaming life? Did I neglect to make one or am I just the one sitting on it?
It was at that moment on that Sunday morning that I realized I have an idol. I enjoy this game so much because I have inserted my name where I once wrote God’s name. To be clear, I think there could be worse idols to have, but then again I might just be rationalizing my own sin. It would be easy to say that this game is obviously driving a wedge in my relationship with Jesus and I should completely remove it from my life. Legalism is always easy to say. However I think if I change the way I think about the game I can find some redeeming value in it.
What if instead of looking at my action and making a blanket statement about the evils of videogames and then (probably unsuccessfully) resolving to cut them out of my life completely, I tried to see how this game can actually help me to understand God and His heart better. Is that even possible? Wouldn’t it be easier just to call it sin and remove it from my life? Calling it sin may be easy, but removing it completely from my life seems like an unnecessary struggle. I think it would be more beneficial to have an honest discussion about this hobby and give it a more defined role in my life than simply “good” or “bad”. Instead of calling it a sin, I want to call it a potential idol and put it in its proper place in my life.
Approaching the issue this way is more honest and closer to the heart of the matter. If we call NCAA College Football 2013 a potential idol it means that it has the potential to distract me from my relationship with God (which it certainly does). It has the potential to cause me to ignore my responsibilities as a Jesus follower, a man, a husband, a father, and an employee. However, in addition to these things that make idols bad, it also has the ability to reveal the attributes and heart of God. As is the case with any idol that ever has been (golden calf from Exodus for example) or ever will be, it is created by man using things created by God. When God originally created the world He called it “very good” (Gen. 1:31). That means that all the things that God created (literally everything that exists) was very good and displayed characteristics of Him. What causes an object to become an idol is when it becomes worshipped instead of God. So there is a part of every object that draws us to God (because it was created by Him and displays some of His attributes), but also tempts us to elevate that object as God for that very same reason.
So NCAA Football becomes an idol because I want to worship it instead of God, but that also means that somewhere it in is something that reflects God’s character. After reflecting on my slightly humorous, slightly pathetic, slightly sinful dedication to this game, I realized that I play this game so much because I enjoy being in control of this universe. I have created a football universe where I control the wins and losses, the bowl games, and the trophy winners. The game also pays proper tribute to my skill because it saves my name beside every trophy and record I set. Then I realized that this is exactly what God has done and desires.
God created a universe where He is in control of every imaginable detail and He is doing some infinitely more impressive things than I am. He has set every record for love, size, consistency, beauty, creativity, and infinitely more. He deserves to have His name beside everyone of those records and the beautiful mystery is that is it. God has created in everything details and reminders of who He is. The problem is that we humans want to ignore His name and scratch our own name on top of His. We want to claim ownership and mastery of the world, when it’s more realistic to view the world a playground that we have been given permission to play in.
In this way NCAA College Football 2013 reminds me that God is the true creator and ruler of a much bigger universe and He loves to see His name properly attributed to all of His workmanship. Just as I desire my name in the record books and create football dynasties to serve my purposes, God desires the same thing in the world He created.