Dabo Swinney recently joined the crew of First Take to share his perspective on the likelihood of the college football season kicking off as usual in 2020. The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the world as we know it, and many of us are anxious to have a little hope for life to return to “normal.”
Dabo shared his hopefulness and optimism that the fall season wouldn’t be affected. That’s fair. Many signs and predictions are pointing to things not being back to normal come August, but let’s not begrudge anyone who hopes for the best.
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
It caught me a little bit off guard, though, when Swinney cited his faith in Jesus as his reason for being optimistic about the return of the football season.
Is that what hope in Jesus is for?
As I watched the interview, I vacillated between being grateful for his openness talking about his faith so freely (this isn’t a surprise from Dabo - he’s publicly shared about his faith many times before), and being dissatisfied that trusting and hoping in Jesus was being aimed at a return to competition.
Is there anything wrong with saying that trusting in Jesus gives Christians hope to face uncertain and hard circumstances? Not at all. Trusting in Christ to secure our future is a beautiful cause for hopefulness. The oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:11 promises us that God has plans for our future.
Trusting in Jesus as a means to realize a personal future — a return to our sport season, the opening of our favorite restaurant, the freedom to travel — misses the magnitude of our ultimate reason for hope.
Trusting in Jesus means that the vision at the end of our hope is not a vision of “life as normal,” because life as normal is broken! We know this in the sports world. Financial corruption, sexual assault, disordered eating, and anxiety run rampant in the lives of athletes and in the broader culture of sport.
Our reason for hope in the midst of daily struggles and global upheaval is that God’s plan for our lives and for the world ends with everything being better than a return to normal. God promises that what is broken will be fixed, what is wasted will be restored, and what is dark will be made light. Our greater hope, the hope that propels us as Christians through uncertainty and grief, is that this story ultimately ends in a kingdom where Jesus reigns and we live each moment in a perfect relationship with God, each other, and our world.
Consider Jesus’ resurrection. We celebrate his resurrection as a victory over the brokenness and willful rebellion from God humans brought into the world. Death came into the world because Adam & Eve brought rebellion into God’s kingdom in Eden. By living a life perfectly aligned with God his Father and defeating death, Jesus broke the curse of sin.
It was exciting! But Jesus knew, and taught his disciples, that resurrection wasn’t the end. His death and resurrection made it possible for things to get even better than they were in Eden. He ascended after forty days and sent the Holy Spirit, so now God’s Spirit is present in the world every day until the day everything is made new.
For those of us holding out hope that fall sports seasons will begin as usual (or anyone else like me really hoping the community pool will be open this summer), let’s fix our eyes on Jesus as our King to draw our hope even higher than returning our life to normal. Let’s place our hope in the ultimate promise that all things will be made new and made right.