I live in Seattle. Prior to moving here, I had never lived in a city (or even a state) with a professional sports team. So it was weird to come here and know that when people asked you "Did you see the game last night?" There is only one game that they could be referring to. Basically everyone here is a Seahawks fan, and they like to show it. Now for those of you reading this in Montana, and are fans of the Grizzlies or the Bobcats, let me assure you that the level of crazed pandemonium that erupts in a city like Seattle when their team makes it to the Superbowl puts the best Cat/Griz weekend to shame. I can easily say that over half of the people you encounter will either have a Russell Wilson jersey, a Seahawks sticker on their car, or a flag flying on their house.
This kind of fandom can have positive and negative effects. On the positive side, tons of local business owners are donating to charity in honor of the Seahawks, people are generally more friendly in the city if they find out you're a Hawks fan, and it's just plain fun to be able to share this event with friends and neighbors. Negatively, you get stories like the local middle school principal who sent a teenager home from school because she wore a 49er's jersey on “Blue Friday,” or the numerous drunken brawls that have broken out in local bars and restaurants.
From a missiological standpoint, this is fascinating to watch. All of these fans have become image bearers of the Seattle Seahawks. You see, we were all created to be image bearers of God (Genesis 1:26-27). In old days, a king or ruler would place his image on all of his possessions. Think of the statues of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt, or a family crest from an English lord. This image was a means to identify certain people, cities, or objects as belonging to the king. In modern America, even though we don't serve under an earthly king, we still use these images to identify ourselves. Think of flying a flag in the yard to identify yourself as an American, or in this example, wearing a Seahawks jersey to identify yourself as a Seattle fan. Many of us have forgotten though, that our original created state was to image the almighty God. This creates not just an image issue, but an identity issue. We identify ourselves with so many things, but so often don't identify ourselves with God.
In the book Disciple by Bill Clem, he describes what being an image bearer means practically in your life. He uses the analogy of a mirror, that we are designed to reflect God's glory like a mirror reflects an image. When we reflect God's image back to Him, that's worship. Prayer, singing praises, honoring Him, and learning more about Him, these are all ways that we worship God by reflecting His image. When we reflect God's image to those closest to us, that is when you have community: meeting together as a church, praying with each other, encouraging one another, living a Godly life together with your family and your church family. That is how image bearers of God live in community. Finally, when we reflect God's image to everyone we meet, to the whole world, that's mission: living your life above the reproach of sin, sharing the Gospel with people you meet, traveling across the globe to show people what God is like through the image of Him that you bear. That is how God's mission is accomplished in the world.
God desires to see the world filled with His image-bearers (Matthew 28:19-20). If we find our identity in Christ, then our desires should mirror His. It's not necessarily wrong to get excited about a football team, a movie, a TV show, or even a church. These things can even be God-given entry points to begin a conversation with others around you. But too often, we identify ourselves with these earthly things and not with Christ, distorting the image of God so that people around us see more about us and our interests than our Savior. How many of you know people, who are Christians, who talk more about their church than the Lord who established it? Or maybe you know the guy who comes to church and claims to love Jesus, but doesn't show up for 16 weeks in the fall because it's football or hunting season?
I want to leave you with the encouragement of Paul from the book of Colossians. "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory....you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (Colossians 3:1-4, 9-10)