Sports & Theology: Ray Allen

At 37 years old, most NBA players have been retired for years. Not Ray Allen. He is still playing at a high level coming off the bench for the Miami Heat. Known for his sweet shooting stroke, Ray Allen will certainly be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. Much of his success as a player can be attributed to his work ethic. He’s known for his great conditioning and relentless pregame shooting routine. In NBA history, there is perhaps no one who has worked harder than Ray.

Let’s set the scene: In 2008, Ray Allen was interviewed by Jackie MacMullan for The Boston Globe. Here’s a short excerpt (bolding mine):

Everyone wishes they could shoot like Ray. They tell him that all the time. They are envious, they say, of his God-given talent.

“An insult,” says Allen. “God could care less whether I can shoot a jump shot.”

When I first read this, it reminded me of Lance Armstrong’s quote from years ago when he said that God had nothing to do with him beating cancer. It was only because of his hard work that he was able to overcome. I wonder if that’s where Ray’s motivation came from when said the above words. I wonder if by attributing his skill to God, if he felt like it took away from all of his hard work. Or, perhaps, his perspective is that God couldn’t care about something as insignificant as a jump shot in basketball.

Regardless of his motivation, Ray’s theology expressed here is popular among culture–even among Christians. We think, God has bigger and better things to do rather than waste his time in something as small and meaningless as sports. If that’s true, how do we determine what’s too small for God to get involved with? Just try it some time. Start categorizing the “important” things in your life with the “unimportant.” You’ll begin to see, it’s much harder than you think.

All this to say, I disagree with this sentiment that God doesn’t care about a jump shot.

When you create lists of “important” and “unimportant” things in life, it creates a sacred/secular dichotomy. This is dangerous for the life of the Christian. This sacred/secular divide is responsible for the “cultural Christianity” we see in the United States–where you’re a Christian at church on Sunday but Monday-Saturday, God has no influence on your day-to-day life.

This sacred/secular divide is not supported by Scripture. Read these words from Colossians 1:15-18:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For byhim all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

You’ll notice the word “some” does not occur in this passage. The word that does appear over and over is “all.” God is before, in, and through all things. As Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” That most certainly includes sports. That also includes jumpshots.

It’s hard for us to comprehend but God can be glorified even through what we consider the most menial tasks. Bob Schindler explains from 1 Corinthians 10:31:

Do you see what this means? Paul says that the way I do what I do can actually bring fame, recognition, honor to the greatness of God – no matter what it is that I do. This means everything means something – when it is done for the glory of God. This glory, this fame is the unifying, the integrating principle.

Historically, when cultures have gotten this – the fact that everything is “sacred

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>