As football fans, we enjoy watching the intensity and passion while also realizing the pain these players put their bodies through. They are risking injury on every play, and when a guy gets seriously injured, it’s hard to watch.

We’re still waiting to hear how Steelers’ linebacker, Ryan Shazier, is doing after a spinal injury when going for a tackle on Monday Night. In that same game, we saw two other collisions resulting in Steelers’ wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, being suspended one game for a violent block…and Bengals’ safety, George Iloka, being fined for a big hit.

There is no doubt that football can be dangerous, scary, and vicious at times. But even with the NFL taking steps to make the game safer and less violent to limit the injuries, the question still gets raised about whether it’s just part of the game.

Steelers’ safety, Mike Mitchell, went on a major rant this week with these comments:

“I signed up to play full-speed, contact football. We’re not doing that. When I was 6 years old watching Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson, Sean Taylor, the hitters, Jack Tatum. That’s football. This ain’t football. You have to know the risk when you sign up. No one wants to be paralyzed. No one wants to have head injuries. These are all things that are negative.”

I can’t blame the league for wanting to create a safer game, but I also appreciate a player’s perspective on wanting to keep football, football.

We all know the sport is dangerous and nobody wants to get injured, but Mitchell is right when he says that players must understand the risk that comes along with it.

Similar conflicting mindsets are out there when it comes to people wanting the Christian faith to be safer and more comfortable. Too often we do everything we can to avoid “injuries” or anything that would challenge us or make us uncomfortable. Of course we don’t want to get hurt or knocked out, but following Jesus isn’t safe.

We find peace in knowing our eternal destination is secure, but when we embrace the life Jesus has for us on earth, it can get dangerous.

We must understand when we decide to follow Jesus, there is a risk of persecution, suffering, difficult choices, “big hits,” and uncomfortable conversations.

Jesus explains in Luke 9:23-24 (AMP):

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].

“For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it[through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake, he is the one who will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God].’”

Mitchell said, “I signed up to play full-speed, contact football.” As we think about choosing to follow Jesus, are we willing to take the risk of losing our comfortable and safe life, so that we can go full-speed and endure any contact that may come our way?

I’m Bryce Johnson and you can unpack that!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I know that life with Jesus is exciting and fulfilling, but also dangerous. I admit it’s hard to give up my selfish ways and desires to be safe and comfortable. I want to fully follow You – regardless of the risks. Please give me the strength to do so. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.