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Nick Saban: A Picture of…Jesus?


In a press conference this week, Nick Saban turned his podium into a pulpit and took us all to church. If you haven’t seen the video yet, Saban went on a refreshing rant in defiance of our graceless culture, advocating for second chances when players fail.

As I listened, I found myself thinking an impossible thought: Nick Saban sounds like Jesus.

What makes it particularly compelling, and the reason I think it has resonated with so many, is that Saban has the deserved reputation of a hard-nosed, no-nonsense, old-school leader. His demands for his players and coaches are high, and he isn’t afraid to let them have it (sometimes publicly) when those demands are not met. And when someone like that is the same one advocated for grace, the message bears a unique significance. This ain’t Mr. Rogers talking forgiveness; this is the toughest man in football. And it’s this strange convergence of strength and benevolence that reminded me of Jesus.

If we chose one adjective to describe Jesus, I’m willing to bet “love” would be at the top of the list, and rightfully so. But how is love defined? This is the dilemma with love. It’s something we struggle to understand, let alone practice. As a Christian, I believe love is perfectly embodied in Jesus. And John 1:14 describes Jesus as one who is “full of grace and truth.” This rare combination of grace and truth is the essence of love.

Grace without truth is enabling. Truth without grace is bullying. But grace and truth together is loving.

There are a lot of people who define love as merely grace: never confronting always excusing. And they tend to enable the ones they think they are loving. Then there are those with a tough-love mentality that is merely truth: never excusing always confronting. And they tend to bully the ones they think they are loving. But when you look at the life of Jesus, what you will find is the perfect balance of grace and truth.

His grace is astounding. So much patience, gentleness, kindness, mercy, forbearance, etc. But if your view of Jesus is that he is therefore spineless, then you don’t know Jesus. He was equally devoted to truth. Never shy to confront, rebuke, correct, admonish, challenge, etc. Honestly, it’s tough to tell whether Jesus prioritized grace or truth more, which is precisely the point. He is full of both; therefore, he is full of love.

As you apply this definition of love to your own life, what you will probably discover is that you tend toward one of the two. Some gravitate toward grace, others toward truth. I’ll speak on behalf of those you are called to love and tell you that they are desperate for you to practice the other. That’s not to say you necessarily compromise grace or truth, but that you improve upon the one you struggle with.

Some of you think you are loving others, when in fact, you are enabling them. It’s not that love is calling you to give up on grace, only that those you love need more truth from you. Others of you think you are loving others, when in fact, you are bullying them. It’s not that love is calling you to give up on truth, only that those you love need more truth from you.

Granted, the tension of grace and truth is hard to practice, but in the end, love is worth it.

I never thought I’d learn a lesson on love from Nick Saban, but then again, in my Bible reading this morning I read about God speaking through Balaam’s donkey. So I suppose if he could speak through one ass, well then…

Robert Cunningham is the Senior Pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church. You can email any comments or questions to [email protected] and follow him on twitter @tcpcrobert.

Article written by Robert Cunningham

26 responses to “Nick Saban: A Picture of…Jesus?”

  1. WildcatCam

    Love this Pastor Rob!

    1. kacat2

      I don’t think Jesus and his grace was dependent on how good of an athlete the sinner is and if he could help him win a football game. Nick Saban is not anyone who should be held up as a christian man or in any way resembles the values of Christ.

    2. Dee

      Kacat2— I believe someone missed Pastor Rob’s point… and message. Perhaps you should lay down your predetermined response and re-read the message.

    3. Bluehender

      Good call Dee..

  2. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree

    What did the best player on his team do that changed his mind?

  3. UKFanSC

    I don’t normally come to this place for spiritual benefit, but that was a great message Pastor Rob. Good on ya!

  4. Saul T. Nuts

    Very nice! thank you

  5. AppreciateTheCall

    awesome!

  6. BlueWho

    Amen! Great read!

    1. kacat2

      Saban is a win at all cost coach. He has no problem with a kid threatening to kill his girlfriend or choking her or giving him a second chance if he smacks her into a coma as long as it helps him win a football game. If he is really all about forgiveness, give the kid a scholarship but don’t let him play on the team. Tom Osborne did the same thing with Lawrence Phillips. He had taken his girlfriend at the time by the hair and dragged her down a flight of stairs. Osborne gave us the ole everyone needs a second chance speech. Phillips when on to commit several crimes that put him in jail, where he killed someone before he was killed. Saban is a hypocrite and anyone saying otherwise is a fool.

  7. Looother

    Amen!!!

  8. BLUEVADER

    Absolutely the world mistake Jesus Christ as soft. I never understood how the one who sets at the right hand of the father who has all authority over Hevean and Hell, who defeated death and the grave, who kept himself on the cross with legions of Angels ready to rescue him at a word, who spent 3 days in hell, who is going to return and destroy everyone and everything that opposes him within seconds, who could destroy every wicked being that ever lived like lil helpless insects. IS SOFT. Jesus Christ is mighty and people think because he is the most loving and graceful being ever that he is weak. Lol JESUS CHRIST LAUGHS AT THEIR CALAMITY AND THEIR FOURTH COMING DOOM. I can’t understand how certain people on this show or website claim to love the Lord but support a party that stands for everything Jesus Christ hates! It’s time to wake up we are in the Days of Noah, days of Noah wasn’t just about the wicked but about genetics. Genisis 6 the Rosetta Stone of the word of God. One must workout their own salvation with fear and trembling and pray that your name is written in the Lambs book of Life. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to loose his own soul in hell fire torment for eternity? Might want to Check What Jesus stands for and Who he truly is some of you founders of KSR. GREAT ARTICLE BY THE Way! Pretty refreshing The most important thing over everything is to Love one another like Jesus loved his church.( Not a building) but his loyal followers and believers, worshipers, His remnant. Wide is the path that leads to destruction

    1. abobicesaevior

      The Republican Party is responsible for the legalization of abortion.

    2. DelrayCat

      The Christian Taliban rears its ugly head.

    3. ukkatzfan

      Defeated death and the grave ? I thought he defeated Death, Hell and the Grave. Did the NCAA have one of his victories taken away ?

  9. T-Town Cat

    I think that video is actually five years old.

    1. Ross7035

      tha k you t-town cat. that video is from 2014. the player he is referencing doesn’t even play for Alabama anymore. he is in the NFL. great message but off by a few years.

  10. UKCatAttack

    I guess I see your point but I find it sacrilegious to compare Nick Saban to Jesus Christ.

    1. ukkatzfan

      Just nosey, is t sacrilegious to compare Nick Saban to Satan ? ala nicky satan.

  11. alatucky

    What a great read, some commentators may want to reread and contemplate the content.

  12. Baize

    Wow. Some absolutely great stuff in here. The grace/truth balance is a difficult one for all believes.

    However, I don’t like us calling Saban a picture of Jesus. The ram in the thicket is a picture of Jesus. The Passover lamb is a picture of Jesus. Not Saban, or any man besides arguably Adam.

    Still, thankful for the blessing this post was. Looking forward to the next one!

    1. ukkatzfan

      Do you mind when Nick is referred to as Nicky Satan ? Guessing you are a Christian. Am I correct ? Isn’t that by definition saying Christ-like ? Are Christians not suppose to be a picture of Jesus ? JC. ( just curious, not trying to initial and be a picture. lol (laugh out loud, not holy roller lift hands in praise guy))

    2. Baize

      Hey- yes, I’m a Christian.

      I wouldn’t call Nick Saban, or anyone Satan.

      Christ is our example and we strive to be as much like Him as possible, but Scripture is clear that we can never be sinless like He was.

  13. Jesus H. Chrysler

    All Y’all need me.

  14. Underdog

    Better watch it Nick.

    Look what happened to the predecessor coach of Steve Kerr at Golden State.

    Blackballed in the NBA for crossing the line.

  15. Paw

    Mathew 7:1-5 I guess we all should read this everyday!! And it hurts me to think that My Jesus would laugh at someone’s doom!