Football is the sport that operates in a separate stratosphere. The NFL has significant issues, many off-field issues, such as spousal or partner abuse and substance issues. It also has on-field issues such as head injuries caused by massive men at increasingly higher speeds colliding with one another, and last year (a political year), we enjoyed seeing men take a knee during the National Anthem. Logically then, when the NFL owners met this past spring, they said they were going to allow end-zone celebrations. It all makes sense to someone deep in the tax-free NFL offices (a multi-billion dollar industry).
Another peculiarity in this sport is the definition of a score. In baseball, the runner crosses the plate and has to touch home plate. In basketball, the ball must go through the hoop. In hockey and soccer, the puck or ball goes into the net. In football? The ball must break the "plane." So, per NFL specs, cameras have been placed at various angles in and around the end-zone to see if the ball "breaks the plane." If in the end-zone, the cameras capture how many feet were in if a catch is made when the back or receiver is leaving the end-zone (in which the ball may not be actually "in") but his feet were. So, you can score ball in, feet out OR you can score feet in, ball out. Again, this all makes sense to someone deep in the tax-free NFL offices (actually, I think last year they voluntarily agreed to a limited tax of some sort because of the bad PR that issue generated).
So, the lines in football are blurred by the plane issue creating a nice shade of gray for the football fan. Did he score or didn't he? Did he get the first down or didn't he? It's not as black and white as it may seem. It is a nice shade of gray. There are some who thrive in the gray zone of life, like the commentators reviewing these calls as they are being considered, or some in life who operate well in gray.
So to the Sixth Commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." Simple, straight-forward. Don't stray when you are married. Right? Some take it even further, not just stray, but just don't have sex with another woman when you're married. Sex is broad category of course, so just don't have intercourse with another woman when you're married, and you don't violate this commandment, right? In the Catechism, Luther eliminates a great deal of gray by restating Christ's redefining adultery in the Sermon on the Mount. "God requires us to avoid all temptations to sexual sin," writes Luther, reflecting Christ's, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
We are men in a men's ministry and can talk honestly at this point. This is the greatest weakness for men in a world that uses images and imagery to arouse the man via magazine covers for sports all the way through graphic sexual images in media designed to gratify our lusts. It is there. It is right in front of us all the time. Today, the internet has exploded the opportunity to stray and violate not just a physical sin, but a sin of the heart as Christ describes it. Yet we neglect this obvious temptation in our discussions and in our devotions. These temptations occur before and during marriage, the sole estate in which sex is permissible as the Catechism views it through the lens of scripture.
We pray in earnest the God deliver us from these temptations. We also pray that the church is a place in which this sin and these temptations can be discussed in honest discussions. We pray for all men who face temptation or are in a spiritual struggle with this. Satan finds our weaknesses and exploits them, but as Paul writes, "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.... For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthian 12) We pray God uses our weakness to make us strong.
Hope Men's Ministry