“Look, Mister,” the man in the striped shirt said, “I don’t know who you are, but either you button your lip or you leave the sideline and go sit in the stands.”

I wanted to tell him I was the college president, but I knew the referee had the authority to enforce his threat.

I often walk the sidelines with my college’s football team, both to encourage them and to enjoy the intensity and camaraderie of the game close up.

Usually I am respectful and appreciative of the work done by the officials. On this occasion, however, the opposing defense was repeatedly roughing the passer and hitting late—take my word for it. I sought in my most diplomatic manner to bring this to the attention of the officials, but to no avail. When the infractions resumed on our next possession, I offered to illumine the referee in a more persuasive manner. Since there is no “instant replay” in college football, I thought he would be grateful for my help. He wasn’t. Enough said.

I really do value the work of umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Under the most difficult situations, umpires and referees must make quick decisions and maintain control. Without them, contests would be little more than chaos. Infallible they are not, but nearly always officials perform their essential functions with professional competence. I am a sports fan. I am even a fan of officials—usually.

Jesus is ump!

The Greco-Roman world of the New Testament was sports-minded. And the apostle Paul was evidently a sports fan. Paul, seeking to communicate effectively, laced his epistles with sports talk. He employed terminology that reflected a diversity of athletic events, including boxing, wrestling, track and field, chariot racing, and maybe even gladiatorial combat. The functions ...

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