This week, in an interview with the New Yorker, President Obama was quoted as saying, “I would not let my son play pro football.”
The President is not the first to speak out regarding the dangers of professional football. Many former players have said that they would not want their sons playing the game either. The game has become faster, the players larger, the hits harder, and therefore, injuries more frequent and severe. Studies have been conducted that show what sort of damage repeated hits to the head have caused football players over the years.
As a father, I can relate to the President’s concern. I watch the games on television and see player after player limping off the field or having to be carted into the locker room. To think of my son being on that field and facing those kinds of hits, quite frankly, scares the poo out of me. I can confidently say that I, too, would not want my son to play pro football.
But where does our concern for the safety of our children trump the need to let them make their own choices and take their own risks? If my son were to decide he wanted to play football in high school, would I forbid him for fear that it might lead to a career in the NFL? I know that I have to let my kids make mistakes because that is how they will learn, but I also have an innate desire to protect them. How do I reconcile those things…not only when it comes to playing pro football, but with everything in life?
God faced these same questions. Humanity was created with the ability to choose and we made mistakes. God saw us making those mistakes and tried to help us learn from them. God saw that those decisions were leading to our destruction. We were suffering injuries, sometimes because of our own poor choices and sometimes because of the poor choices of others. So, God had to decide whether or not to intervene, and how deeply to intervene.
God chose to send Jesus. God chose to save us, not by force, but through sacrifice. God did not withhold God’s own Son from danger but sent him straight into the middle of it…to save us from it. God knew the risks, but sent Jesus anyway.
So, does that mean that we SHOULD allow our sons to play pro football? No. But perhaps it does mean that simply keeping our sons out of it is not enough. Perhaps some change needs to happen. Perhaps we are called to bring about something new for the NFL, just as God through Jesus brought about something new for us. What that looks like I don’t know. But what I do know is that sometimes avoiding danger is not enough. Sometimes we need to take steps to lessen that danger…for ourselves, for our children, and for others.