I’ve been reading a book our son gave me for my birthday. The name of the book is When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi. The author of the book is David Maraniss. Even the most casual observer of “the sports world” probably recognizes that Vince Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers and led them to a number of NFL championships (five world championships in nine years, to be exact).
This is not a book from which I would expect to find much about God, religion, etc. I thought I would only learn about a man who is legendary as a football coach. I thought I’d learn some interesting things about his family, his coaching career, some of his philosophy of life and coaching, etc. I am not too far into the book and I have, in fact, already learned some of that.
One of the things I learned was that, as a youth, Vince Lombardi had a desire to become a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, he even began some training with that goal in mind.
It was in that context and about that period in Lombardi’s life that Mr. Maraniss wrote these words:
Daily mass became a lifelong practice, often cited as evidence of his extraordinary faith. True enough, but as Lombardi himself explained in later years, he was expected to worship every day when he was growing up, so it had become a habit; his religion was as much a matter of discipline and routine as devotion (p. 25).
I don’t know about you, but, to me, those words are striking and challenging. In these few words, there is a contrast between a concept of Christianity that is characterized by practice, habit, discipline and routine on the one hand and faith and devotion on the other.
It seems to me that this contrast is seen in the New Testament. The Jewish religious leaders who were so opposed to Jesus could be said to have habitual, disciplined, and routine practices. For them, this could have been the “sum total” of their commitment to God.
Jesus would challenge them and us with statements such as:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22:37-39, NKJV).
When the “record book” of my life is opened (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10, Rev. 20:121-13), what will be revealed? Will my life be seen as one based only on obligation and duty or will I be seen as one who lived his life based on faith and devotion.
The “Lombardi Trophy” will not be handed out on that day. That temporal trophy is now given each year to the winner of the Super Bowl.
What will be given on that day will be “the crown of life.” The recipients of that high and eternal honor will be those whose lives are characterized by love for Jesus (cf. James 1:12) and faithfulness to Him (Rev. 2:10).
Photo background credit: Jim Bowen on Creative Commons