The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Worship without knowledge

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Football (read soccer if you are from the US) fans will be deeply troubled by the news that filtered through from White Hart Lane earlier this evening. During the course of the match, just before half-time, the Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed – quite separately from the action on the pitch at the time – and was immediately attended by medics. Resuscitation was immediately attempted, including CPR and a defibrillator.

The other players were plainly deeply shocked and distressed. Muamba was taken from the field apparently not breathing independently and rushed to hospital. News of his condition has yet to be confrmed. The worst is feared and the best is hoped for.

Certain things become immediately plain in the aftermath of such a tragedy.

The first is that things quickly achieve their proper perspective. Bill Shankly’s idiotic observation that “some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that,” is immediately revealed for the nonsense it is. As Mark Lawrenson put it, “Football is absolutely and totally immaterial in comparison of what’s happened to Fabrice.” Watch the faces of the players and the spectators and it immediately becomes clear that when life and death are in the balance, football does not matter very much at all. If it did, someone would have dragged Muamba’s body to the side of the pitch to allow the teams to get on with the game. Rather, when a man’s life – when his immortal soul – is in the balance, suddenly the trophies and glories of this passing world are seen not to matter very much at all.

The second is that the religious instinct in men made in the image of God has not been eradicated. To be sure, there will be thousands who sincerely care about Fabrice Muamba and his recovery who will have no thought of God, but look at the tweets and Facebook updates, listen to the interviews, and what is the one thing that so many commentators are saying and encouraging? “Pray[ing] for Fabrice Muamba.”

A typical response reads, “”Doesn’t matter who you support. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t a football fan. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t religious. Pray for Fabrice Muamba.”

These are people who – by and large, and by their own admission – live day by day with no regard for God, acting as they please in accordance with their own desires, with God’s name usually no more than blasphemy on their lips. But then the crisis strikes, and what is the response? Let us pray. But why? Really? How? For what? To whom? In what way?

That these questions are not answered, and might not be answerable, does not alter the essential fact: the instinct of fallen man when faced with a situation he cannot handle is to cry out to God, or at least to whatever he believes crying out is to whatever God he may imagine. The point here is not so much to critique the theology of the praying as to point out the reality of the reaction.

Let us not imagine that secularism and irreligion and sinfulness have eradicated the image of God in mankind. Let us not forget that man is, by his very nature, a religious individual, a reliant, dependent individual, a worshipping being. When a real crisis occurs, that instinct – however marred and twisted – rises swiftly to the surface.

Prayer is a real hope for Fabrice Muamba. Those who know their God and know what prayer is might pray for his survival and recovery.

But let us also be ready to aim at the target once more revealed by the reaction to this terrible event. Let us be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. Let us take the opportunity – when men who have nowhere else to go, being rendered powerless (and knowing it) by a turn of events for which they have witnessed, begin to cry out to God – to make God known: “Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, him I proclaim to you” (Acts 17.23).

It is not wrong for the thoughts and prayers of true believers to be concerned with Fabrice Muamba, asking that God would preserve his life and – without presuming to know his relationship with the living and true God – to save his soul. It is right for our thoughts and prayers also to be with those shaken and bewildered men and women who have had their deepest fears and their great weakness and ignorance suddenly revealed, and to ask that they would come to a knowledge of the truth, seeking and finding the God whom we proclaim, the living and saving Lord of heaven and earth.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 17 March 2012 at 20:22

Posted in Culture and society

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  1. […] from: The Wanderer Print PDF Possibly related […]

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