In the light of this weekend’s “Final Four” basketball tournament – and all of this “March Madness” or “Mayhem” (as it is popularly called) of the last few weeks – Matt Reagen posted a few summary thoughts about sports and competition from a Christian perspective at the “Desiring God” website a week ago (March 23, 2012). As one who enjoys college basketball as well as other sports (Cubs baseball is around the corner!), and realizing the dangers the over-emphasis on sports in our society creates for me and all Christians, I need help keeping sports in perspective. Reagan’s thoughts are a good starting point. I could only wish that Reformed-Christians would address the Sunday sports issue clearly and distinctively (You know, God’s fourth commandment!). But that’s another issue. For another time.
Here’s some paragraphs to get you started; read the rest at the link above.
3) How we enjoy image-bearing for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) is the issue.
This is at the heart of what makes achievement Christian, and something we’ll still be working on as long as we remain on this side of eternity.
It is vastly oversimplified to say that we simply exert our efforts vertically instead of horizontally, so that when we work hard, we simply do it “for God,” whatever that means. Hard work (or harder work than before) with an upward point of the finger is not enough, though it is a part of the equation in some way, it seems (Colossians 3:23).
4) It is clear from 1 Corinthians 10:30–31 and 1 Timothy 4:4 that thanksgiving is a vital ingredient in the glorification of God through any particular enjoyment.
Gratitude inherently deflects personal credit, as it acknowledges the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). All achievers of anything, whether through talent or hard work or both (as is usually the case), should remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” The subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) tendency of the athlete is to boast in his natural-born talent, which is perhaps the least reasonable attribute in which to boast.
5) Our enjoyment of God in the midst of athletic achievement is a critical component of his glorification.
So if we run fast and enjoy it, which we should, we should enjoy it the way the first frog did. According to Chesterton, the riddle goes like this: “What did the first frog say?” “Lord, how you made me jump!” Jumping and running are enjoyable because they give us the capacity to participate in the beauty and power of God, and they are always gifts from him. As Eric Liddell memorably said in Chariots of Fire, “God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Perhaps this would be the only legitimate reason for it to be more enjoyable for me to make a jump shot, or run fast, than to watch my friend or teammate do it — just as the Apostle Paul gloried more, it seems, in his experiential participation in the lives of new believers in the early churches than in just hearing about it.
6) God is not fully glorified through any activity where he is not a person’s final Treasure.
Therefore, sports must be put into their proper realm of value, which is vastly less valuable than God.
Clearly, because of their arbitrary and fabricated nature, the sports themselves are somewhere on the value scale beneath real war (where life and death are the line) and relationships (perhaps especially marriage), which deal with eternal souls. When playing a sport is a person’s livelihood, that may change things some, but one of the greatest testimonies that an athlete can give to the glory of Christ is proper perspective.
Making a shot at the buzzer, even if it is for the entertainment of thousands, is still just entertainment, and it’s still just a game, made up by some guy (James Naismith, in this case) who had enough time on his hands to not only assume that it would be fun to try to put a ball in a peach basket, but also to write an entire manual of rules. “It’s just a game” is always one of the more helpful and God-glorifying responses a Christian player or coach can make in an interview.