Saturday, March 11, 2006

# 134: Competitive Sports: The Sparks Shall Fly

I will likely receive more flak from sports fans and casual athletes for writing these next few paragraphs than from any other topic I have covered thus far. Although I have absolutely nothing personally against athletes or sports fans, I must write on why Christian logic says that sports and godliness do not mix well in the Christian life.

Let us try to determine from whence our desire for aggressive or competitive behavior originated, that which is often displayed in sports. Historically speaking, sports got their first big break in the Greek Olympics. It is no doubt that other cultures before the Greeks were involved in competitive sports also. Competitive desire comes mostly from wanting to be the best, the smartest, or at least good at something. This may not seem that harmful in itself, but if one digs deeper, what they may find is that such competitors desire the perverted worship of others. The need to be worshiped (wanting to be top dog) says that there is a serious shortfall in one’s relationship with God. When our worship of God is correct, that desire to be worshiped is destroyed, but when being best is gained at the expense of someone else's defeat, it comes into direct conflict with New Testament beliefs.

Now, some will quickly offer, "But it's all in fun." Not so. When millions, if not billions, of dollars are spent on salaries for the participants of these sports, other millions are spent by the spectators, and when sports are given the degree of attention they receive by the media, that is big business. Sports have become the most popular form of worship in America. What I mean is that sports and the associated athletes have more followers than all religious denominations put together. Sports heroes are actually worshiped (wanting to be like the superstar) by fans, more than Jesus Christ is worshiped by His so-called “followers”. Who really wants to be like Jesus Christ other than in word and song? What young person doesn’t want to be like one of those great sports heroes that makes millions of $ a year?

Still, some may say, "Where is the harm?" Answer: Well, if we really belong to Jesus Christ and are living to promote His cause on Earth, we love all others and consider them as good as—if not better than—ourselves. We want the best for all others. We want them to be winners in all aspects of life. How can we want them to win when we want to prevail over them? That is where the conflict arises between genuine Christians and agnostics. These days, there is never any real love, or even camaraderie, displayed in sports. Christians don't belong where there is no potential for love.

When distinguished Christians participate in or view sports, we are setting a paradigm for all other Christians. We give sports the go-ahead sign to all who look up to us. The more respected we are in the Christian community, the more damage we do. We are holding hands with the pagan world and doing their thing in the name of Jesus Christ. Shame on us. Now you can see why the world laughs at those who call themselves Christians when we approach them in outreach. We may be fooling ourselves, but not the world, especially when they see little (if any) difference between themselves and people who are called Christians.

I would be the last to teach that if you are a Christian you cannot be involved in competitive sports. Those kinds of rules are for the spineless, and for legalistic religions. What I will say is that we as Christians can’t adhere to man-made religious rules governing what is right and wrong or we will be back to legalistic slavery and outward works. We have the law of the Spirit that lives in us dictating what is right and wrong. As it is recorded in the eighth chapter of Romans, we are controlled by the Spirit of God and not by our human (sinful) nature. Therefore, anyone who is controlled by God's Holy Spirit has their mind set on what the Spirit desires. If you love competitive sports and couldn’t see giving them up, even if the world came to an end, I will say this to you: Check the spirit you have to see if it is God's Spirit or the spirit of the other guy.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that other than the essentials and responsibilities of life (like work and obligations pertaining to keeping the household together), we have no right to get involved in anything that doesn't directly bring glory and honor to our God. That is a hard statement. Are there any grey areas in it? I suppose it depends on one's maturity. The closer we become to Christ, the more we will separate ourselves from worthless worldly activities. When one insists upon living like an immature Christian, thinking that grace will cover their divided fidelity and spiritual ignorance, it is a sure sign to God and others that he or she is being deceived into thinking their Christianity is valid. They may well be the last to know of that deception until it is too late. Words come cheaply, but a life lived in conformity with the desires of God's Spirit is expensive (the expenditure of our time and effort). You have to be the one to decide if being a spectator of or participant in competitive sports is best for your spirituality and that of others who look up to you. Remember, what we do and don’t do is an experiment for others to follow.

As genuine Christians, when we actively desire all others to be winners in the arena of daily living, we also are winners. When one wants their team to be a winner at the expense of another, regardless of whether or not your team prevails, you will always come up a loser. Sports are only one of many distractions that keep our minds and lives in a spiritually inert condition. As I have said, our time is not ours any more than our lives are ours. We belong to Jesus Christ, for the glory of God. We were bought at a precious price and for a special purpose. Our time is not to be squandered on useless recreation.

True Christ-like recreation gives us a continual vacation from the strife of worldly pleasures. That re-creation process is ongoing as we continually rub shoulders with our great God, Savior, and Lord, Jesus Christ, because we love him. Or do we? It is natural to want to be with the one we love and who loves us. He loves us more than all the cheap words in the human language can express. Do you believe that? If so, let your Christ-like life prove it.

Some might quote several verses from Galatians fifth chapter, saying that we are free to do as we please and are not under law (rules). That is true; we are free to live as we ought to in the sight of God without rules telling us what to do. The freedom we are given also grants us the power and obligation to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are free from the power to do as our human nature dictates. Christians have more freedom than any other people. Is God free? Is Christ free? We have that kind of freedom. Love generates freedom. One thing we must remember is that freedom brings responsibility. This is true not only in a free society, but in the spiritual realm as well. The responsibility of our job as Christians is more enormous than being the head of state of a superpower. We must make prime time to display Jesus Christ to everyone. We must make every minute of the day count for Christ.

I know for certain that some of you are going to come up with many seemingly legitimate excuses to continue in sports. We as humans tend to rationalize when it comes to things that are important to us. If that is the case, it might be wise of those who disagree to prepare their defense ahead of time for when they go before the judge and jury. If I am wrong in saying these things, email me or click on the comment section; explain my error and I may change my mind. If not, your silence alone will condemn you.

On a practical level, if one doesn't want to make enemies, they probably shouldn’t talk down sports, especially if that talk contains Godly, soul-piercing logic. Could that be why the clergy also keeps silent, while some even promote the big games? I don't plan on making many friends with these harsh words, but if I don't say them, who will? As I’ve said before, I have no worldly reputation to care for.

It is said that football is probably the most dangerous sport of all. This post is making another fact clear: Being a sports fan can be even more dangerous spiritually. If, by some chance, God hit a nerve with these words, perhaps He is only trying to jar a few sports aficionados into Christian reality.

1 comment:

JC said...

David, Thanks for the encouraging words. I hope things are going the way God desires. God bless you and yours.