Coach Jim Harbaugh led his Michigan Wolverines to a 27-20 overtime victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Michigan was down by seven with minutes left in the fourth quarter, before quarterback J.J. McCarthy threw to Roman Wilson for a 4-yard touchdown with 1:34 left on the clock. The Tide was unable to respond, sending the game into overtime. Michigan scored a touchdown in their first overtime possession, before the teams’ defense stopped Alabama 2-yards short of the goal line, producing a triumph for the Wolverines.
Fresh off their victory, the team now heads to Houston to compete against the Washington Huskies for the national title on Jan. 8; it’s the team’s first shot at the title since 1997.
Two days before the Wolverines cinched a spot in the finals, Coach Harbaugh was asked why Jesus Christ is “such a key figure” in his life at a pre-game press conference.
As is common with Harbaugh’s media appearances, his answer was intriguing if nothing else.
“I have a feeling that if Jesus would have come back now in this era, I suppose that many of the biblical analogies and teachings would be about sports, as well as agriculture, maybe a combination of the two,” Harbaugh said, adding,
Solomon would have been a great coach, too. I have that feeling. Jesus would have been a five-star. He would have been a five-star player, no doubt about it. He would have been a Hall of Fame coach.
Harbaugh’s comment, while perhaps lacking intense theological depth, nonetheless makes a good point.
In his 3-year-long teaching ministry, Jesus Christ often used illustrations and analogies common people could understand. He taught deep theological truths using everyday items – mustard seeds, lost coins, hidden treasures and leavened bread, for example.
Likewise, in 1 Corinthians, St. Paul wrote about the importance of communicating to people where they are at – not where we want them to be.
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. … To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:19-23, ESV).
When we’re conversing with others about faith, we too should remember to “become all things to all people” that we might save some.
Now, this principle doesn’t give us license to sin, nor grant us permission to ignore or dismiss deep theological realities. However, we should orient our message to the average unevangelized person with their background, experience and needs in mind. St. Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians,
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it” (1 Cor. 1-2, ESV).
Once people are more ready for “solid food,” they should be given it. And Christianity – with deep mysteries like the annunciation, incarnation, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection – is filled with intelligent and rich theological depth that a person can spend a lifetime trying to comprehend.
This isn’t the first time that Harbaugh has been open about his faith in Christ. As a practicing Roman Catholic, Harbaugh has said that “faith, then family, then football” are his biggest priorities in life.
The coach is also unabashedly pro-life. In a 2022 interview on ESPN, Harbaugh said he’s offered to adopt any “unplanned” children that his family or University of Michigan football players might have.
“I encourage them if they have a pregnancy that wasn’t planned, to go through with it, go through with it,” Harbaugh said, adding,
Let that unborn child be born, and if at that time, you don’t feel like you can care for it, you don’t have the means or the wherewithal, then Sarah and I will take that baby.
Coach Harbaugh also spoke at the Plymouth Right to Life Dinner that year. “I believe in having the courage to let the unborn be born,” Harbaugh told the audience. He added:
I love life. I believe in having a loving care and respect for life and death. My faith and my science are what drive these beliefs in me. Quoting from Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
It’s heartening to see Coach Harbaugh be outspoken about his faith – and passionately vocal about his pro-life convictions. Our world could use far more people with his courage and conviction.
Congratulations to Coach Harbaugh and the Wolverines on their Rose Bowl victory, and good luck at the National Championship game.
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