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…

  1. edge100
    May 22, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    You said:

    “Yeah, and he calls himself a Christian!”

    Until we have some way of assessing, based on evidence, who is actually right, then ANYONE who calls himself a Christian is a Christian.

    It is invalid to claim that any particular version of Christianity is more correct than any other.

    Whether it be burning apostates and blasphemers, torturing and raping young children, directly contributing to the premature death of millions of sub-Saharan Africa, or opening an orphanage to care for blind children, it’s all based on inappropriate reverence given to a piece of Iron Age literature.

  2. snip
    May 23, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Hi Riaan, this was the first time I’ve come across this blog of yours.

    The points you make about the shirt are all very valid. I’m a Christian, Bulls supporter and I have to say I didn’t really find it offensive at all.

    I watched the game with my family and when we saw the shirt he was wearing we all went from – “Wow, that’s great Jaco” to “Oh shit, that is going to cause him and the team so much grief…” And unfortunately that is what happened…

    I feel that in our country where freedom of speech is advocated, he had the right to wear it, and to show the world that the Bulls team live and play for Jesus, nothing wrong with it, but I’m afraid that it has just opened a whole can of worms, which maybe should have been kept shut.

    It’s like you say, each and every action that he or a team member will partake in from now will be scrutinized and criticized, we all know that Christians aren’t perfect, we make mistakes like everybody else, but unfortunately, people tend to expect more from you if you proclaimed yourself Christian. Unfair – sure, but true nonetheless.

    So basically, I agree with everything you said, I have no problem with him wearing the shirt, and actually applaud it, but it may not have been the best place to do it…

    (PS. where did you see FNL? I’ve been catching it on M-NET and have really enjoyed it, and it’s portrayal of Christians thus far. Just wondering…)

    Lekker dag en dankie vir die interresante “blog”, ek gaan definitief nog ‘n bietjie hier rondlees…

    Snip

  3. nonna
    May 23, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Being born into a rugby family, dad, brothers, ousins, boyfrined…..etc, playing, I know exactly what some rugby players get up to after the game but I can tell you with certainty, I’ve known Jaco all my life – all his life – and he’s never, ever been a Christian during the game and “something/someone” else after the game!
    He’s always, always been a Christian and has never, ever in his life been nothing but a Christian, campaining for Jesus!
    I think what he did, takes “guts”…..He is fab!
    “Vote Jaco”!!!!

  4. May 30, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    I understand your’e concerns, but we as Christians have to start standing tall. It is so that Jaco will receive more negative attention then before to see if he is doing something wrong, but he made the choice to declare that he will not back down or being afraid for being in the negative spotlight. Thx Jaco for declaring and I pray that you will stand tall.

  5. September 11, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Your mode of describing the whole thing in this article is truly pleasant, all be capable of effortlessly know
    it, Thanks a lot.

  6. March 15, 2013 at 1:49 am

    I support my Christian brother Jaco for what he was doing after that match and may the almightly blessed him. I’m from Fiji Island where Christian values is our every day life and our Fiji Rugby team has been their values during every rugby sevens before and until now.

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