Rugby, religion and prayer
Yeah, I know this sounds familiar but it’s not the same I promise. This one is about Jaco van der Westhuizen who climbed up the goalposts and put on his Jesus is King- T-shirt.
I have spoken to a few vastlydifferent people about this and I got several different opinions. It varies from people who thinks it was completely inappropriate and a total disgrace, to people who thinks he accomplished what he wanted to. Some also thinks that he was very brave for doing that and some thinks that actions speak louder than words, even if they are printed on a T-shirt.
Myself, I don’t really know what to make of it completely. Yeah, we should testify wherever and whenever (and if necessary, with words!). Yeah, it was a brave thing to do in front of the whole world (it is not limited to the Southern Hemisphere).
But was it really the BEST thing to do?
I’m not completely convinced.
You see, I know that rugby players pray before and after games. Wheteher it is out of true conviction or out of habit is not the question right now, the fact is they do it. I have been present MANY times when this is done. Usually the prayer revolves around keeping the players safe from injuries, let them have a good match, playing their hearts out and keeping the game clean. Afterwards they would thank God for keeping them safe (and to be with a person that has been hurt if there was any) and thank Him for the victory or to help them to stay strong and to be with them for the rest of the season. It is not (usuaully) a prayer where God is “bargained” into a victory or some crap like that. (An interesting example can be found in Friday Night Lights season 1 episode 12 or 13!)
Now, the Blue Bulls is a team that is known for not being shy about their religious convictions, something I find heartwarming, because it goes to show that there is more to rugby (and other sports) than just the big brawny guys with girls and beer – like we’ve seen so many times on TV or out of own experience. Players like Pierre Spies are quite outspoken about their Christianity and what it means to be a Christian Rugby player. They are not the only sports personalities to share their faith publicly – cricket players like Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock, Hansie Cronje (rip) etc. have been knowned to do this.
It is, as I said, heartwarming.
But the thing with Jaco is that he is making it difficult for himself (and Christianity) by doing that. If he so much as punch a guy by accident in the next game, or swear on the field in front of the cameras or you name it, then people will start throwing stones and say: “Yeah, and he calls himself a Christian!” People are like that unfortunately.
We know that Christians are not perfect people at all, but the public (and I seriously don’t know why) still believes that they should be and beware them if they screw up once. The moment I saw Jaco with that shirt, I thought: “Oh shit, here it comes again!” And it did.
In a world where we are called to testify our faith in the place where we are (be it in an office, on the sports field, in a classroom, on a stage, wherever) we ahould really be careful as to how we do it. People don’t care what you say until they see your actions and if that does not correspond with what you say you believe, you will be outed as a hypocrite so quickly you won’t even know it.
The old saying still remains: ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS…