Is God Like Tom Izzo?

Tom Izzo is the coach of the Michigan State men’s basketball team. He is considered one of the top coaches in college basketball and will no doubt be in the hall of fame. Currently, he has led his team to an incredible eight final four appearance. 

During their 2019 journey toward becoming one of the final four college teams remaining, Tom Izzo had a “heated” moment with one of his players, Aaron Henry. Izzo has always been known for his passion and is often very animated. 

In this particular event, Izzo was furious with his player and was visibly enraged. In fact, one of the photos that brought up a lot of discussion, showed Izzo screaming at his player with his fist tightly clinched.

This caused some controversy and discussion about what is and is not acceptable in the treatment of players by coaches. There is very little doubt that Coach Izzo loves his players, and some think that this is what coaches do that love their players. The thinking goes that coaches who love their players will show them “tough love” and get in their faces when they need to be held accountable. 

The portrait of the ‘justifiably angry’ coach is one that most Americans are familiar with. I would argue that one of the main reasons we find this behavior justified is precisely because this is the same way we view God. Whenever we make a mistake, most people view God as the angry coach running on the floor during the timeout to yell at them…with a clenched fist. And so we are afraid. 

Afraid the coach will punish us

Afraid the coach will hurt us

Afraid the coach will take us out of the game

Afraid the coach will kill us

And so we live in fear of making a mistake. Instead of enjoying the journey, our focus is perfection. Instead of playing with joy, our sole focus is not to disappoint the coach. This is the result of the evangelical picture of God.

Many eXvangelicals grew up learning that God was mad at them, disappointed in every mistake, and would punish them every time they were not perfect. 

But the glorious truth is that God is not like Tom Izzo or any other angry coach. In fact, God is not angry. The idea that God is angry and must have a sacrifice of some kind in order to assuage the rage, is a pagan concept. God is love…full stop. God is not angry with you. Jesus did not die in order to satisfy God’s anger. 

God is not some “hothead” who had to kill his son in order to feel better. No. No. God sent Jesus, among other things, to show us who God really is (Hebrews 1, Colossians 3). Jesus died at the hands of a system built on sin that ultimately leads to death. His death destroyed the system from the inside out. He showed the enemy love that God desires. His life was a model of the Kingdom way of living. His death opened the door for us to join that way of living. 

God’s fist is not clenched. No, his arms are open wide to receive you and show his magnificent love. Don’t be afraid. 

About Matthew Thisse

Matthew Thisse is a Jesus follower, single father, associate pastor, and corporate trainer. He is a former Evangelical and a failed fundamentalist.

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