The Day the NFL Outchurched the Church

In the midst of a rancorous weekend filled with divisive rhetoric, one group of people stepped out from the acrimony and hate, leading onward in the way of love. It’s just probably not the group you expected.

In case you missed it (although I’m sure you didn’t) the big story of the weekend was the NFL national anthem protests. People across the country couldn’t stop talking about it. Some people agreed with the protest, some disagreed, some were deeply offended by the nature of the protest, some were deeply offended by the offense. And so it went, on and on and on. Bitterness, frustration, entrenched tribes shouting from fox holes. Precious little listening, precious little empathy, precious little grace.

And we were so busy fighting that we missed the point entirely.

The players weren’t making a statement primarily about racism or patriotism. They were showing us what unity looks like.

Across the NFL some men knelt, some stood with their hearts over their hands, some raised a fist, some locked arms. But on sideline after sideline after sideline their message was clear: “We are one.”


This picture says it all—some kneeling, some standing, all linked. As if to say, “We may not share a common view, but we share a common bond.”

And here’s where this devastates me. Is it possible that the bond that unites an NFL team is stronger than the bond of Christ? Because I don’t see that same unity of Spirit across the church in America today. I don’t see Christian patriots loving Christians protesters. I don’t see Christians who support Trump listening to Christians who support Black Lives Matter. I don’t see Christian conservatives literally linking arms with Christian progressives.

When I look at the Church, I don’t see unity.

This weekend’s events forced every NFL team to survey the fault lines of division that run through their locker room. Their response was an intentional demonstration of unity.

And Christians across the world spent the afternoon arguing about it.

Whatever else it was, yesterday was the day the NFL outchurched the church. May that day never come again.

And may you know, that whether you support the protest, hate the protest, or wish we’d stop talking about the protest–I am on your team.

We are one.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit,
one hope, 
one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.”


About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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