Christians In Sport

Christians Within Sport

If you’ve not done so recently, I recommend you re-read the creation account at the start of Genesis (1-3). It’s refreshing to remember God’s goodness and perfect work, His creative nature and His masterpiece of designing us humans. Even more incredible is that God gave over His creation for us to care and tend. What a responsibility! But does sport fit into this role?

Does sport fit into the biblical framework? Yes, the Apostle Paul makes use of the analogy of running races in the new testament, but there’s little mention of competitive: archery, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, diving, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, synchronized swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting or wrestling… (for the record this is a list of this year’s Olympic sports but perhaps it’s worth adding on the great games of footy and cricket too!). Well we know God didn’t create these sports himself, but just reading the above list reminds us of the amazing creativity we humans have in inventing games. What a reflection of God’s creative heart! In this sense we bear our Father’s image (Genesis 1:27).

Moreover, think of the moments when you play sport, the times when you just love it: the body feels great, everything’s happening in perfect timing, you feel the exhilaration of moving, hitting, shooting, passing, running, cutting through the water, just being out there with others… Isn’t it these moments that we can just praise God for his design and provision? (Psalm 139:13-14).

Yes! But, the reality is that we know that these moments are few and far between; the body breaks and groans, we make selfish decisions that are detrimental to the team, even cause injury to those we compete against (forgetting that if they weren’t there we wouldn’t be able play sport in the first place!), and let’s not forget the umpires/officials we may insult and take for granted. In the past weeks I’ve been involved in a team that, so far this season, have only won 3 out of 24 games. Needless to say, the idea of sport as a playful and creative activity (trying to run the warm-up was tough work!) seems a long way off and relationships in the player-coaching groups fray. Sport becomes a chore. Our role as God’s image-bearers is forgotten. We’re reminded that we’re banished from the original paradise described in the Garden of Eden. There is now toil (Genesis 3:17-19, 23). Look up Romans 8:20-25 (NLT):

“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay…”

As people for who sport takes a big part of our lives, perhaps we can have a rose-tinted view of our sport? After all, it’s a passion, something we love, it’s ‘my-time’ to relax, switch-off, and have fun. So perhaps we forget that sport too is scarred by our rebellion against God’s creative order? Sport’s not how it ought to be. We can use sport to achieve our own glory rather than point to and reflect our Father’s heart… but what would playing sport look like without sin? It’s hard to answer this question when we’re so used to gamesmanship and deception being the norm. But let’s pray for fresh vision as to how our sport looks in God’s redemptive plan. How can we worship God through our sport? How might sport in the new Heaven and Earth look?! Indeed, will sport still remain? Questions to ponder…